Russia Invades Ukraine
2022 has brought numerous surprises to my work and subject matter.
This blog post will be about the paintings/drawings I am making that are tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. A very painful subject to be sure, but I am responding to the invasion in the way I know how; by making art that perhaps can show a hint of the Ukrainian’s amazing resistance to the brutal aggression of Russia, and to create anti-war art. As Ukrainian President Voloydymir Zelensky said in his broadcast to the recent Grammy Awards, musicians and artist must continue their creative work to show that freedom is paramount for Ukrainians and all people.
For years I have from time to time made paintings based on battles. See my Military Battles tab on the web site and the nearby Military Battles Statement which outlines this works’ relation to history painting. Over the last few years I have been researching and depicting, using an abstract expressionist approach, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and the last battles of WW2 that liberated France, defeated Hitler and the Nazi’s in Europe. My father was in the Battle of the Bulge and my grandfather was an Army General in the Pacific. I came of age during Vietnam, and was not inclined to follow their paths, but perhaps I have highlighted some of their generations’ contributions to our world’s freedom through this work.
I started my first military paintings in 1988/1989 when I was living with my sisters in Arlington, Virginia. I became intrigued by the battlefields I saw all around the Mid Atlantic. Because I was born in California and not much exposed to the legacy of the Civil War, I decided to learn about the conflict and visit many of the historic battlefields, many of which are preserved in the region. What I found was a fascinating history indeed. Of course I quickly saw that almost all battles are presented by maps. As is well known to military historians, the battlefield topography almost always has important military significance and consequences. So I found a perfect fit with my interests and skills. Using my keen interest in landscape, topography, and history, I began presenting battles and battlefields as fine art paintings. As it turned out, the Gulf War of 1990/1991 was soon to follow and I actively followed that Middle East conflict and made paintings about that quick war as it unfolded.
So, this is the second time in my life I have followed a war as it unfolds in real time. Once again, the news, YouTube postings and the like, made about the war, feature a parade of maps. I am now following the conflict daily and am making a serious new body of work. So far I have completed multiple studies of the so-far failed Russian attempts to capture the cities of Kyiv and Mariupol and other locations in Ukraine. Along the way I have been studying the history in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine and Russia. There are new paintings that show the Kremlin and the Russian capital of Moscow. As I conclude this brief introduction, I am remembering Guernica, the 1937 important master work by Pablo Picasso. According to Wikipedia, it is one of his best-known works, regarded by many art critics as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history. If you look at my Military Battles tab you will see I have my version, an aerial map-like view that shows the German planes coming from the north and bombing and strafing the small Basque city. It’s difficult to show with paintings the true destruction and human suffering experienced during war, but it is my intention to have these new works bear testament to the unprovoked Russian attack ordered by President Vladimir Putin and following in Picasso’s footsteps, perhaps create lasting anti-war statements.