I’ve had a long interest in trench art since discovering its existence (discussed in my post: Trench Art from WWI & WWII). One of the things I have been interested in is trench art from modern day conflicts. I haven’t been able to find any trench art from after Vietnam. Scott Vezeau, who was deployed in Iraq during Iraqi freedom, sent me these incredible photos of a captured Fedayeen Helmet (inspired by helmet #2 on Jane Kimball’s site), which he had painted by a local artist. The Fedayeen Helmet, which means men of Saddam’s sacrifice, was worn by soldiers who dressed in all black, had limited training and effectiveness, but were highly motivated and were believed to be heavily drugged before they went into a fight. This helmet was captured in Hillah, Iraq, by 2- 187th Infantry, 101st ABN Division.
Interestingly, the artist was formerly an artist for Saddam Hussein during most of his life (painting images on murals, buildings, etc. all over Iraq – essentially covering the country with his visage). After the invasion, most of the artists were out of work. This particular artist was put to work painting historical scenes on the new government buildings, including a fantastic mural in the Sinjar Post Office. He was adept at painting or copying photographs in our. Scott had him paint several paintings (from photographs) of his unit’s movement from Kuwait to Northern Iraq.
This helmet is an amazing examples of modern day trench art. What I like best about them is the fact that the show collaboration between native local populations and a foreign military, which I think isn’t frequently exhibited in trench art. I also like the idea of how new materials and new forms of collaboration allow a broader range of trench art to be created.
Scott discussed why he thinks that modern conflict doesn’t lend itself to trench art as easily as earlier conflicts. He says:
The nature of modern conflict doesn’t lend itself to trench art as easily as earlier conflicts. Most trench art pieces are made of artillery shells. While artillery has been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan it is not at the same magnitude of earlier wars. Additionally, most soldiers today are taught to not retain spent brass or ammo and that it must be turned in. Being found with spent ammunition stateside can result in punishment. Some of that mentality carries on overseas. Finally there are shipping concerns.