In honor of Veteran’s Day today, Work on Monday looks at a piece by Westhampton painter and Air Force Pararescue Jumper Jules Roy. The artist is an elite combat medic, performing at the level of the military’s other special operations branches, including the Navy Seals, Army Delta Force operators, Green Berets and the like, but he was inspired to paint during multiple deployments in Afghanistan, and finally went for it. His untitled piece, which we’ll call “Afghan Farmer and Child,” is one of the strongest works among these early paintings and drawings—the first of Roy’s career.
Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.
Farmer with his Son; the Conversation
Jules Roy (b. 1975)
Oil on canvas
appx 24 x 36 inches, 2013
In “Farmer with his Son; the Conversation,” Roy captures a quiet, almost peaceful, moment taken from memories of his service in war-torn Afghanistan. He depicts a native farmer and his young child looking out over his fields to the smoke and fire of a distant conflict—a scene that is probably far too common in the region.
Using a limited palette of deep black, and white oil paint, along with selective areas of burning orange, the dreamlike landscape was clearly not painted en plein air, yet it feels authentic and alive. The figures’ long, black shadows, the flames of battle reflected in the path and the black smoke spreading into the sky give the painting a sense of place and ground it in reality, despite the unlikelihood that any Afghan vista looked exactly this way.
On a deeper level, the work speaks about processing war’s more difficult moments, and the artist’s coming to terms with his role in the conflict, while also considering the effect our country has on these people in a land so foreign from our own. Jules serves as medic who heals others, including (at times) the enemy, it remains a stunning accomplishment to put himself in the role of the enemy—to empathize with these Afghan natives—while he may yet return to the field of battle and fight them.
Through his art and humanism, Jules Roy proves himself an artist, and man, of strength, maturity and professionalism. Like all members of our armed forces, he should be honored for the work he does—on and off the canvas.
“Farmer with his Son; the Conversation” and other works by Jules Roy are on display at the Quogue Library through the end of November.