Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage

Last summer, when Professor Roy Behrens ambitious book was published I asked our library to purchase a first edition, author-signed copy for Dordt’s collection. However, as soon as the book came in, out it went on inter-library loan to Virginia Tech University. Because the book has been on the road, it wasn’t until now that I’ve had a chance to read it.

Promotional copy from the publisher, Bobolink Books, states: “There is nothing else quite like this: The conclusion of 35 years of research, it features biographical articles on hundreds of artists, architects, stage designers, and zoologists—even automobile stylists and golf course planners—who contributed to military and/or natural camouflage in the 20th century. Enriched throughout by 344 illustrations, including photograph portraits, military photographs and documents, patent drawings, artworks and other images. It includes a comprehensive Camouflage Timeline, a 38-page bibliography of camouflage research sources, and in index.”

In high school I spent a lot of time in the library and found a book that interestingly described how some renowned artists during World War I painted designs on aircraft and artillery. A year later with a low draft number, a 1A classification and a freshman in college… I waited to be called-up for induction and military basic training. I thought that with my artistic ability perhaps I could paint camouflage for the Army rather than combat. Fortunately, the draft ended in early 1973.

Admittedly, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to get completely on board with the subject of camouflage, mainly because it brings me back to a time when I played army as a kid and frankly I find the military connotation to be disconcerting as well as making me think of the so-called Patriots on weekend training camps in the Michigan woods. On the other hand, the way living creatures in nature utilize protective coloring mimicry and body under-shading and background picturing is absolutely fascinating. This compendium conveys Behrens’ interest in camouflage like a naturalist studying the created world. For Behrens the import of studying camouflage is a thesis for how art and design communicates. In other words, what is the psychological impact of patterns, color, values, emphasis, scale, and space as the basis for visual language?

As is the case with Behrens’ other books, the “side bars” are always interesting and entertaining reading. In addition, one my favorite items is the camouflage “styles” and concordance listings.

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