Michael Figueroa is a great example of a contemporary war artist who follows the aesthetic impulse to “make it new.” A US Army vet now living in the greater Chicago area, Figueroa never deployed while in the service, but nonetheless his paint-and-image collages have an of-the-moment quality about war and soldiering I find very appealing. In fact, his ability to turn the material matter of military life into vision-inspired art is quite incredible. Traditional and typical war art seems interested in realistic representation of combat scenes and emphasizes either heroism or war’s horror. Often the values and politics are pretty obvious. Figueroa takes familiar military images and iconography and spins them and mixes them and makes them bleed and sweat. Neither heroic nor horrific, neither ironic nor naive, his artworks exude an in-between spirit that is half-troubling, half-exhilarating. I love them.
Figueroa studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. His website can be found here and his art can be purchased here. He has sometimes exhibited in conjunction with Graffiti of War, an organization dedicated to showcasing soldier art for the benefit of veterans. Below are more samples of Figueroa’s work.
If I had ever served in the 1st Cavalry Division, I definitely would purchase this print.
Figueroa’s inspiration for this picture is the inscription on the backside of the Purple Heart: “For Military Merit.”
The title refers to famous pictures of Uncle Sam, but also brings to mind the 1970s mass-murderer David Berkowitz, who, as it happens, was in my Army unit in South Korea a decade or so before I arrived.
The inspiration here was a visit to West Point.
All photos used with permission of the artist.