By Moneé Cottman Luckey, National Museum of the United States Navy Public Affairs

Today, a new exhibit opened at the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN) showcasing artwork of the U.S. Navy’s Combat Art Program from the last fifteen years. 

The exhibit, entitled “Scenes from our Navy: Combat Art of the Twenty-First Century,” features 35 pieces of artwork by three combat artists—Kristopher Battles, CDR Monica Allen Perin, USNR (ret.), and Morgan Wilber. Through use of oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings, each work of art explores the naval experience from a humanistic perspective. 

“Sometimes the phrase combat art invokes violence and conflict. However, that is not always what the Navy is about. It is about its people, its purpose, and the jobs it fulfills both day in and day out. This show tries to highlight the work that the men and women of the Navy do on a daily basis for their country,” said Navy Art Collection Curator Pam Overmann. 

During the opening, artist Kristopher Battles discussed his work on display in the exhibit, and his experience creating art that portrays life and events in combat zones. 

“It has been a great opportunity to be a combat artist for the Navy because the Navy is operating everywhere in the world. I have been all over with my pencil and camera and doing paintings and drawings to document what they do,” said Battles. It’s a wonderful way to tell the people back home what the Navy does and also for history and posterity. They can see the images whether in person in an exhibit like this one, in publications, or history books. It will be a great literal picture of what was going on during our time period.” 

CDR Steven Galeski and Dr. Jan Herman are featured subjects in Wilbur’s artwork and recalled memories of working with Morgan.

CDR Galeski is the subject depicted in Wilbur’s painting titled “Taking Aim, Dangerous Game.” He said, “Morgan is a master of detail. What do you say you to a man that has basically immortalized you? He has an insatiable appetite for knowledge, and you can see the intensity and gleam in his eyes when he talks about his work.” 

Featured in the “Three on the Knee” painting, Dr. Harman added, “I think it is one of Morgan’s best paintings. It gets you in the mood for what it’s like to be in an operating room. This took place at Fleet Hospital Three in Iraq. It shows a bunch of orthopedic surgeons doing their work on a knee. I don’t recall exactly what the injury was or how it happened. But I remember at the unveiling that people thought it was a photograph.” 

The Combat Art Program is a core component of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Navy Art Collection. It collects, documents, preserves and exhibits art that is significant to the history of the Navy for both the public and service personnel. This includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and engravings consisting of naval ships, personnel, and actions from all eras of U.S. naval history. Highlights include the Combat Art Program, which feature World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom. 

NHHC Director RADM Samuel Cox delivered remarks on the importance of the Combat Art Program, outreach to the fleet, documenting current events, and expressing a scene beyond photography. 

NMUSN Acting Director Jeffrey Barta stated, “With the ending of the Navy’s Combat Camera (COMCAM) units, the Navy’s Combat Art program will become more relevant than ever. Combat art always has, and always will be a vital medium in telling our story to the American people and the world.” 

“Scenes from our Navy” is the second exhibit to open at the NMUSN this year. “Razzle Dazzle: The Art and Science of Ship Camouflage During World War I” opened in February, and “Play Ball! U.S. Navy and the National Pastime” will open on April 2, 2018. 

“I am pleased that NMUSN is able to help showcase the work of our three combat artists-in-residence and the many facets of the Navy’s history through these exhibits,” added Barta. 

The exhibit is open to the public through December 14, 2018.