The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” may mean more to some than it does to others. To combat artists, art is history in the making. A combat artist has the ability to create art from the moment it takes place.
Sgt. Kristopher Battles, a combat artist with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, is currently serving as the Corps’ combat artist. He visited the John F. Kennedy School of Government for Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Wednesday where he showcased his artwork to tell Marine Corps history during Marine Week.
Battles joined the Corps in 1986 and served as a computer operator, combat correspondent and chaplain’s assistant. After serving four years in the Corps, Battles graduated Northeast Missouri State University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1991, and said he has pursued his love of art ever since.
“It’s very rewarding to paint a piece of history,” said Battles. “The public needs to know what the Marines are doing. Our job is to document and provide a personal and emotional medium for the American public to understand what Marines do.”
Battles found his profession in combat artistry after submitting his portfolio to an active chief warrant officer combat artist. The warrant officer was impressed with Battles’ work and then referred him to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, where Battles was interviewed by the director and a curator of the museum.
In order for Battles to become a combat artist for the museum, he had to reenlist in the Marine Corps as active duty. At 38, Battles then called himself a combat artist. Shortly after reenlisting, Battles experience deployed to Iraq for the first time.
“The Marine Corps’ purpose on sending combat artists overseas is to show the families what their Marines are experiencing,” said Battles. “It’s rewarding when a Marine sees a piece of art and says ‘Hey, I was there, I was on that patrol.’”
The deployment to Iraq gave Battles a sharper eye for what should be portrayed in a combat zone. He said he was able to see what the families couldn’t, and he showed them what life was like in a hostile environment through his artwork.
“It’s almost incalculable what he is able to do,” said Joan Thomas, an art curator for the museum. “Artwork paints a broader perspective then what pictures do.”
Thomas explained that through a camera lens a person is limited to what he sees, while a portrait can grasp the full perspective.
“It’s a unique experience to grasp the art and input into the Marine Corps,” said Battles. “The portraits really provide a slice of life for the people back home about what it’s like to be in a combat zone.”