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Kevin J. Cavanaugh

As a U.S. Marine deployed to Iraq, Cavanaugh took photos and kept a journal to document the things he saw. “I always tend to look at things from an artistic point of view, so my experiences in war were certainly an important event to capture in that way,” he said. From something as simple as a photograph from a disposable camera to large canvases depicting abstract visions, art has been a therapeutic release for Cavanaugh. “Creating artwork helps me recreate my experiences in an artistically meaningful way that also gives closure to those moments that may have been traumatic.”

Artistically, color is the most important element to Cavanaugh’s works. “When I look at things, I do not see shapes or content—I see color,” he explained. “My painting is special to me because I was able to capture the unique, albeit typically bland, colors that are found in Iraq. The other element that was so very important to me in this piece is the abstract nature. Some may argue that our very mission in Iraq is abstract, and many views of the situation are as well. This image of the war torn nation is very much reality.”

March 23, 2003

30 x 40 in.

Acrylic on Canvas


This painting is an abstract vision of the images that Kevin J. Cavanaugh saw during the first day he witnessed combat in Iraq. The bright colors are reminiscent of the fire and flames protruding from oil wells and burnt out vehicles that welcomed the ground troops crossing the UN border between Iraq and Kuwait. The black circle represents an obstructed view of the sun, and the green is what little vegetation existed. “It is a very abstract vision, but the first experience in war is very abstract for young service members.”