I have recently been feeling that I have little time nor energy to create art - care-giving has rather taken over life for a while. However I got a timely jolt yesterday as I watched the PBS documentary that Rick Meyer created,The Ghost Army.
The documentary chronicled the deceptions practised by a total of 1,100 creative G.I.s, who formed the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops to mislead the Germans about troop movements and points of attack as the Allies advanced towards the Rhine after D-Day, 1944. Using camouflage, inflatable tanks and other war materiel, acoustics and phony radio traffic, these inventive men created such convincing "information" that the Germans were frequently mistaken in their assessments of where the Allies were advancing, where they were planning to attack, how many troops were in the area, etc. Most of the G.I.s involved came from artistic backgrounds - many straight from art or architecture school - and after the war, many of them would have successful careers in fashion, photography or art. Among them were fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly and photographer Art Kane.
What impressed me as I watched the fascinating programme was that here were artists in the thick of war, under orders and often in very complicated and stressful circumstances. And yet, and yet, they were still passionate artists. They took with them to France and beyond small painting blocs, drawing paper, watercolours, pen and ink, pencils – whatever they could. Whenever they could snatch a few moments, they drew and painted. No excuses for weariness, stress, lack of time. They kept on drawing and painting, in the French villages, during a brief time in liberated Paris, during operations.
This last wonderful painting was done later, by artist Arthur Shilstone. He recounted that somehow two Frenchmen had penetrated the guarded area and saw, to their dumbfounded amazement, a seemingly normal, 40-ton tank being lifted bodily by the four American soldiers! Shilstone simply remarked that Americans are very strong.
Just the small selection of work above is the perfect demonstration that every artist can manage to create art, given the will, even under very trying and taxing circumstances. A wonderful reminder for me.