Drawing From the Heart and Soul of a Country in Chaos

Still life: Prisoners of war
illustration: Steve Mumford/Drawn & Quarterly
Still life: Prisoners of war

In April 2003, New York artist Steve Mumford went to Iraq under the auspices of the online magazine Artnet. He would make four trips over the course of nearly a year, sketching and painting what he saw. The results, accompanied by his lengthy written accounts, appeared on Artnet, and his new book Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq (Drawn & Quarterly) collects the words and images, deepening our perception of the war. "I'm sometimes asked why I didn't make more pictures of Iraqi suffering," Mumford writes in the intro. "I can only answer that I drew the things I saw when I was able to do so, and when I was moved to draw." Daily life in heightened circumstances is his subject; if the mundane predominates, his illustrations can remind us that there are colors even in wartime—Kids Scrambling for Candy (a "regular ritual on every patrol") is practically a peacock. And the title alone of Soldiers at Gabe Posing With the Miller Lite Catfight Girls gently suggests that workaday absurdities know no bounds. Mumford shows slides and signs Baghdad Journal at this event.

 
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