Gettysburg Artist-in-Residence has seen many battles in colorful career

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Chip Beck showed his art to visitors Friday at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum.

“This was during Iraqi Freedom in 2003 when US forces invaded Iraq again,” Beck said while pointing to an oil painting.

If there’s been a fight in the past 50 years, Chip Beck has probably been there.

“This is an Afghani from the Soviet-Afghan war,” he said while showing one piece. “Operation Just Cause in Panama when Manuel Noriega was toppled,” while pointing to another.

He’s been to the wars you’ve heard of. “This was on liberation day during Operation Desert Storm. This guy was going to the Hanoi Hilton for a couple years, several years, actually.”

And many you haven’t. “That’s a notorious nomad warrior,” he said of a painting of a man with a turban on his head.

Beck is a retired Navy commander. His weapons of choice are pencils and paints. His mission is to capture conflict on canvas.

“A combat artist has to be an artist that sees the conflict directly and witnesses them first-hand,” Beck explained. “He’s not getting somebody else’s photographs or reference materials.”

Beck displayed paintings and drawings for a few hours in Gettysburg Friday. But he’s spending a month at the battlefield, working as an artist-in-residence. He’s still just in the sketch stage but shared his early work with ABC27. He’s focusing on the African-American experience at Gettysburg, a topic he feels has been under-represented by artists. The drawing shows blacks kidnapped by Confederate raiders huddled behind a stone wall.

“The people who are not necessarily fighting but are victims of the combatants have to display their own form of courage and resolve to survive whatever situation they’re in,” Beck said.

Beck has shown courage and resolve as he’s been to 130 countries, witnessed or participated in 20 wars on four continents. Ironically, he wishes all 20 never happened.

“Probably not a one of ’em we couldn’t have avoided or handled with far less damage to treasure and people.”

In the mid-90’s Beck drew hundreds of cartoons lampooning Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. He joked that those cartoons finally paid off last week when Mugabe was removed from power.

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