Friday, September 01, 2006

Scott MacLeod Drawings 1960-1962: Part 1: War

Flag Soldiers, 1962

Having exhausted most of the readily-bloggable artworks-by-others in my collection, I'm embarking on a change of direction for the Temporary Museum. This month's exhibition is the first of several which will drawings I made in 1960, 1961 & 1962.

In late summer of 1961, I had just turned five and was attending kindergarten of Regina Pacis Elementary School, a British Catholic school in Djakarta, Indonesia. The multi-racial nuns wore white habits and spoke with English accents.The classrooms were for the most part open to the large dusty central yard where recess was held. It was my second month in Indonesia and my first day in school. I was wearing a diaper because of some stomach infection or temporary food allergy.

The class was asked to draw a picture. Anything we wanted. I bent tight over my desk and drew a multi-tiered battleship, bristling with cannon, firing wildly at huge v-wing planes that dove and strafed and bombed in return. I'd just seen The Sinking of the Bismark on board ship on the way to Indonesia. The entire was page was filled with war machines, explosions and the broken lines of tracer bullets, all in green crayon. Similar in style to "Red Invades Black" and "Black Parachute Battle" below, but more manic.

Finally the teacher called time and asked if anyone would hold up their picture for as all to see. A girl with blond curls, three rows forward and three rows to my left held her drawing proudly above her head. I stared at it with slowly mounted dread, though dread to me usually feels more like a falling. A crisp, sparse rectangle house, with a neat triangle roof, done in purple crayon, perfectly squared and centered on the page. One rectangle for a chimney, a single line wiggling out as smoke. A simple door in the exact center, a simple window on either side, exactly symmetrical. A small tidy bush under each window. That was it.

A rushing sound was filling my head, from the inside, so I could barely hear the teacher and the other students ooh and aah over this girl's picture of a neat well-kept house. I bent my head and stared in horror at my own violent cataclysmic catastrophic crayonic excess, at the flying shards of metal and the stench of death that I - I! - had made. I knew at that instant that I was in some sort of deep trouble for which there was likely no solution and from which there was certainly no escape.

I'd originally planned to exhibit these drawings chrononologically, but after some thought I decided it would likely bve more interesting to group them thematically. So in honor of that first memorable drawing, and in sad resonance with the world's continuing cycles of violence, this first exhibition will be of drawings of war & violence as transcribed from Hollywood films, comic books and otherwise imagined by a 4, 5 & 6 year old.

Red Invades Black, 1962

Plane & Helicopter Battle, 1960

Black parachute battle, 1961


Tank Explosion, 1960

Amphibious Invasion, 1960

Combat! Tent, 1960

As I posted this I realize it is mis-named. I thought the cross-hatching on the helmet meant that this was Vic Morrow as Sgt. Chip Saunders in TV's Combat!, but the animals & other details don't jibe; the whole thing looks like an Arabian scene to me now, some sort of Orientalist fantasy where turbans and keffiyehs share the same tent. God knows. So it looks like this isn't even about war. Well, we all make mistakes; some of us just don't bother to hide them. Anyway, a little research points out that Combat! didn't start airing until 1962 (I saw it beginning in 1963 when we moved back to the USA from Indonesia). And blow me down with a feather but did you realize that Jennifer Jason Leigh is Vic Morrow's daughter?

Battle At Mushroom House, 1960

Again, who the hell knows? This could be a science-fiction type thing, as I drew a lot of landing craft like the one here. But it could as easily be a nuclear explosion, a giant glazed donut. Who knows what lurks in the mind of a four year old?


Archer & Sword Melee, 1960

Swords & Spears Melee, 1960

Four Gladiators, 1960

Some small-group battles. Is that a dartboard unwinding in the upper image?


Tree Ambush Indian, 1960

Sword, Spear & Tent, 1960

These stark two-person fights remind me the bleak, frightening yet comedic scene in Pasolini's Oedipus Rex where Oedipus comes upon his (unbeknownst to him) father Laius's wagon. Laius's guards chase Oedipus down a rocky dirt road for what seems like an hour, running on in sandals, carrying heavy slabs of metal (swords etc) under a hot sun. Finally Oedipus turns and kills one or two of the guards and then chases the last guard back down that same dirt road for what again seems like an hour, till he at last catches and kills him near the wagon where Laius still sits, waiting dully for what will soon be his own death. I probably saw that scene when I was in high school and have never been able to forget its resolute demystification of ancient warfare, whose filmic tropes I had enthusiastically absorbed as a younger child.


Conquistador & Aztec Fight, 1960

Gunfight Near Tombstone, 1960

Chefs Fight In Canoes, 1960

Men In Hats In Canoes, 1960

Sometimes the subjects are recognizable. Others admit room for conjecture. The bright lights of the past burn ever dimmer through the scratched and dented telescope of memory. Who are these enigmatic men in boats, who smile and paddle? The last image isn't overtly warlike but I think these Tahitians, these Iron Chefs, are out for blood sport.


Knights On Dinosaurs, 1960

Melee With Monster, 1960

Toys In Urban Disaster, 1960

Strange Tower Assault, 1960

Are they horses or dinosaurs in the first of these four images? Mountain lion, monster or feral sagauro in the next? And what are the last two scenarios? Their scale leads me to think these are depictions of toys not humans. I collected plastic toy soldiers avidly from a young age and for a decade or more the floor of whatever bedroom I had was usually covered with some epic battle in progress: the Alamo, Shiloh, Chancellorsville, the Teutenberg Forest, the Pelennor Fields. Did I draw myself in this last picture?


I drew battles on paper pads for decades. Different perspectives, different styles, mostly black & white, mostly stick figures. Drawings in color, or featuring full-figured figures, as these below, were rare.

Robin Hood & Red Birds, 1962

Zorro & Volcano, 1961

Kittens & Cavalry, 1962

From 1960 through about 1972 I drew at least three or four thousand pages of battles, islands, explorers, flying saucers, scenes from daily life and scenes from Jules Verne, H.G. Welles and John Ford. From Hollywood and TV and the backyard. For some really odd reason I threw them all away sometime in the 1980's. As far as I know the drawings, all from 1960-62, that I will post as exhibits here on and off over the next several months are the only ones that still exist.