JD Johannes on the Iranian border
Medal of Honor history: Modrzejewski and Pope

USMC: Combat Artists

The NYT has a piece today on the Marine Corps' combat artists.  Now, if you know Marines, you probably think you know what this piece is going to be about.  You're probably wrong.

“Somebody who just knocks our socks off is Gerhard Richter,” said Michael D. Fay, a chief warrant officer before he left the corps last year. “We also love Basquiat."

"When you talk about Basquiat, you run the risk of sounding like a paternalistic white guy,” pointed out his colleague Kristopher J. Battles, a sergeant who looks like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. But he couldn’t help enthusing, “There’s something intense and neo-expressionistic about him.”

So, does anyone want to bet they Marines rehearsed that exchange for a week in order to say it with a straight face in front of the reporter?

Here's something that sounds a little more like Marines you may know:

“The Marine Corps is more like a tribe than some corporate organization,” Mr. Fay said. “And the combat art program, we’re like the shamans.”....

Many of the paintings explore the Marine experience from a disarmingly humanistic perspective: a boy perching in a leafy tree near Carrefour, Haiti, where Sergeant Battles deployed last February to cover humanitarian relief efforts; Marines snoozing by piles of body armor in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009. A painting from his 2007 Iraq tour presents a half-smiling woman carrying a toddler, a luminous, enigmatic image that brings the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans to mind.

One thing that sets the Marine Corps program apart from those of other services is its focus on human subjects and experiences. That’s what has always appealed to Anita Blair, chief strategist at the National Security Professional Development Integration Office, who got to know the program when she was acting assistant secretary of the Navy for a year (2008-09). “When you go over to the Air Force,” she said, “the art is all airplanes. In the Navy it’s all ships. Army art tends to be more about the battle, and the Army loves trucks. They’re fixated on vehicles. But the Marine Corps is fixated on Marines.”

It's an interesting read.