June 5, 2011

War Illustrated

Steve Mumford's ink drawings from Afghanistan and Iraq were inspired by another battle-tested illustrator of some renown: Winslow Homer.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

In drawing scenes from war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, Steve Mumford was less interested in the front-line action and more concerned about recording the lives of residents and soldiers in the lull between the fighting.

Courtesy of the artist

click image to enlarge

Mumford’s rendering of a sniper team leader in Afghanistan includes this text: “Fought off 3 hour ambush yesterday; called in artillery twice; heading to new mission today.”

Courtesy of the artist

Additional Photos Below


WHERE: Center for Maine Contemporary Art, 162 Russell St., Rockport

WHEN: Through July 10; hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

ADMISSION: $5 suggested donation

INFORMATION: 236-2875 or cmcanow.org

GALLERY TALK: Mumford will discuss his work at 3 p.m. July 10


"Counterpoint" by E. Cashin McMillen and Duane Paluska; "Fathom" by Shannon Rankin; and "Robert Hamilton: The Last Paintings."

The drawings are finished pieces, and stand on their own. Some also serve as studies for larger oil paintings -- painting is Mumford's primary focus as an artist.

His war works have received notice nationally and in Canada. The Canadian press Drawn and Quarterly published a collection of his drawings. Harper's Magazine also picked up on his project, and published several of his pieces. In August, Harper's will feature Mumford's work from Afghanistan; the magazine has also sent him to Louisiana to illustrate the Gulf oil spill.

The Pritzker Military Library in Chicago gave Mumford an exhibition in 2007, and in February 2010, he had a solo show at Postmasters Gallery in New York.

Mumford admits a long fascination with war-time art, and it started with Homer. Mumford grew up in Boston, and became familiar with Homer as a young boy. Homer infused his cultural background, and informed his sensibilities as an artist. He's always appreciated Homer's lyrical style, as well as his flair for dramatic storytelling.

Mumford attended the Boston Museum School in the 1980s, where this kind of representational work was considered regressive, if not hopeless uncool.

"It took me a long time to realize what's cool is what you need to do," he said. "I wasted a lot of time thinking I had to be an abstract expressionist when all I really wanted to do was tell stories." 

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Additional Photos

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Steve Mumford in Iraq.

Photo courtesy of Steve Mumford

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Mumford has been twice to Afghanistan, where he captured this image of a Marine on patrol.

Courtesy of the artist


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