Drawing from Life: Steve Mumford in Iraq, 2004-2004
On four different trips during the last two years, New York-based artist Steve Mumford has spent over ten months in Iraq documenting military and civilian life in the US-occupied country. As a journalist working with a press pass from the on-line magazine Artnet.com, Mr. Mumford traveled between Baghdad, Tikrit, Samarra, and Karbala, among other cities, to produce his watercolors and sepia drawings of Americans and Iraqis alike. According to Mr. Mumford, inspiration for the project grew out of his admiration for painter Winslow Homer, who sketched for Harper’s Weekly from the front lines during the American Civil War.
The body of drawings Mr. Mumford produced—along with the writing installments of his “Baghdad Journal” posted on Artnet’s website—create a unique insight into the most controversial and divisive undertaking thus far of the 21st century. More personal than political, and yet more documentary than expressionistic, Mr. Mumford’s words and images portray Iraq as he found it and not as he imagined it or wanted it to be. It is precisely Mr. Mumford’s lack of any overt political position that allows his viewer to dwell not on his message, but the sublime simplicity and quiet beauty of his images.