All News & Blogs
Combat artists from Fredericksburg put themselves in harm's way to capture Marines' Iraq and Afghanistan experiences in painting and sculpture
Michael Fay works on a full-length sculpture of a Marine machine-gunner. It will eventually be cast in bronze.
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 3/9/2008
On the left are the military men, backs to the viewer, wearing desert camouflage and body armor. On the right, facing the viewer, are the civilians, wearing black and bright reds and maroons.
In the background, across a stretch of sand, are several low, flat houses.
The faces of the women and boys reflect an array of emotions. A boy apprehensively tugs at his lip. A young woman, maybe in her late teens, scowls defiantly. The older women stand back, curious but cautious.
It's not a firefight moment; its drama comes from the wary interaction that characterizes many military-civilian encounters.
To combat artists like Battles and Fay, the small moments matter, too.
They know firsthand that being a Marine in a war zone means hours when every nerve is on end, and hours of grinding boredom. Of life-or-death combat, of weariness, of humor, of camaraderie.
"There are times when there's sort of a serene calm, when you're dog-tired at the end of the day, setting up tents," Battles said.
He and Fay are realists, but not illustrators; they're a part of the Marine experience, and they don't try to distill themselves out of it.
So they make sketches and notes of the not-so-glorious times, when Marines are waiting for a helicopter, frustrated and thirsty, or when they're shooting the breeze or reading a book.
"As artists," Battles said, "we want to be sponges."
Laura Moyer: 540/374-5417