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February 21, 2006
A Portrait of the Artist at WarBy Greyhawk
Michael M. Phillips of The Wall Street Journal profiles Marine Combat Artist/Warrant Officer Michael Fay:
While other countries, such as Australia and Britain, send civilian painters to bring home their interpretations of war, Warrant Officer Fay is a rarity because he is both front-line warrior and front-line artist. He is, as far as he knows, the only active-duty combat artist in the world today.
Like all artists, Fay's work stirs controversy:
Christopher B. Crosman, the former director of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, compared Warrant Officer Fay's approach to that of Winslow Homer, who painted scenes of camp life during the Civil War. "Fay puts a human face on war," Mr. Crosman wrote in the catalog for an exhibit of his paintings and drawings that the museum put on last year.Whatever may have come of that meeting is left to the reader's imagination.
Those of you who've been gracious enough to follow my journey can probably guess my politics. I've tried to stay off of that soap box. If you ever read Victor Davis Hanson you'll get a pretty good idea where I stand. When 9/11 happened I was a card carrying dyed in the wool liberal registered Democrat. The religion stamped on my dogtags was Unitarian. Progressive ideas and thinking still inform alot of my core values. So, in many ways I, like alot of you, resist being labeled. But unlike alot of you and many very liberal friends, I have had the benefit being out here on the front lines in the War on Terrorism. I'm like the brother-in-law of Ray Kinsella in the movie "Field of Dreams" who, when finally seeing the ball players, speaks out of his epiphany those immortal words, "don't sell the farm Ray". This is a good fight. It is worth our blood and treasure. Let's not sell the farm just yet.The Wall Street Journal details the journey:
A 52-year-old who wears a toothy smile, a salt-and-pepper moustache and a fleece cap with a Bohemian floppiness, Warrant Officer Fay grew up in Allentown, Pa. He snagged an art scholarship, but, as a self-described "hippie kid" in the 1960s, flailed in the confines of academia. In 1975 he dropped out of his third art school and enlisted in the Marines, "the world's finest finishing school for young men," as he calls it.A couple of points not found in the article. Michael Fay is also a blogger - his site Fire and Ice brings us his view of Iraq in words and pictures, with plenty of samples of his art and photography. And now his tour in Iraq has reached it's conclusion - he's on his way home.
Enjoy your visit to his gallery, and if you can spare a moment tell him thanks.
I consider myself a liberal. A liberal in the sense of this word meaning "generous". Up until recently I was very active in a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, sometimes referred to as the far left of American religion. Many of my liberal friends are very active in protesting this war, in wanting the troops out now. Whether the original premise for this conflict was right or wrong will, in my opinion, be determined by history long after we're gone. But let's say it is as the left insists, a morally wrong intervention. For someone like myself, who has been here multiple times and has experienced the Iraqis firsthand, the thought abandoning them to what would surely be chaos is equally wrong. These two wrongs simply don't make a right. Bush and his administration will stand before the judgment of history. Those of us who stand the ground over here now, know the critical nature of our mission, and we see it everyday in the faces of the Iraqis themselves. Faces that never make it to the American press, yet are indelibly pressed into the memories of the GIs serving them.
Might I suggest the full tour?
Update: Ahhh... here's what happened
Free speech clashed with free expression on a downtown street corner Saturday as artists opposed to war protested the showing of combat paintings of Marine Sgt. Michael Fay at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Sgt. Fay stood ramrod straight when confronted by the small group of protesters upset with the Farnsworth for exhibiting his paintings of combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The afternoon sun reflected off the combat ribbons pinned to his green uniform, and the red chevrons on his sleeves glinted in the finish of his spit-shined shoes as Fay listened to his challengers.That's March 27, 2005.
Fay's response would probably stun any of the protestors who could read:
This past February I had my first museum exhibition open at the Farnsworth Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland, Maine. Wow, was I thrilled! I even had my own protesters! One of the many things they took exception with was my appearance, or as one of them complained to the local press, "I'm offended that he would come dressed as a Marine, and not as an artist." Regretably, I had left my black beret, ragged blue jeans, tweed jacket, black turtleneck and ear-ring at home. Actually, other than the beret, this is exactly the case. I, and many others found it quite ironic that the protesters, members of the very liberal Maine Alliance of Visual Artists, would be dictating what another artist should wear. (Little did they know that the Marine standing before them in his dress uniform had tested out on personality profile quizes as a "cultural creative".) Life never ceases to amaze! I am very aware that I stand astride two very different worlds. Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist, writes at length about a concept he calls individuation; the never ending process of becoming an authentic human being. (This topic is also taken up by Gail Sheehy in her best seller "Passages") What he has to say is particularly meaningful to men in mid-life, a club I more than belong to. There are, according to Jung, two distinct paths. Most opt for what he calls the "retrogressive restoration of the persona"; of electing to settle into a stereotypical pattern of behavior avoiding mental, spiritual or psychic challenges. On the other path we stay in the "tension of opposites", and thereby continue to grow to the end of our days, and perhaps beyond. I will allow you dear reader to decide which path yours truly is on, and whether I'm a black zebra with white stripes, or a while zebra with black stripes. I leave you with a little Emily Dickinsonish poem of mine:Read the whole thing.
Posted by Greyhawk / February 21, 2006 6:04 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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