“I think that I have done all of my best work in recent years,” says Martin “Marty” Witherspoon, an artist working in the unique medium of seized armaments arrangement installations.
Witherspoon spoke to Yelladog via satellite phone from the Iraqi city of Basra as he was putting the finishing touches on his most recent installation.
“Afghanistan and Iraq have provided me with the opportunity to work in a range of small arms that I have never had at my disposal before,” he added, “and in such huge quantities. I love, just LOVE these stacks of RPGs. They’re so linear and uncompromising.”
A civilian contractor, Witherspoon has traveled extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years. His services are constantly in demand in a media-driven war. Witherspoon feels that the Iraq war is a huge breakthrough that has availed him opportunities he has not had since his earliest work in Southeast Asia in the early 1970s. “Oh, god, let’s please not discuss that- I was just out of art school then. I didn’t know anything. Mostly I had a bunch of crap for materials, anyway.”
Witherspoon’s long career has not been without controversy. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he included large amounts of drugs along with his normal assortment of weapons. “I’m not proud of that period in my life,” he says, “but I think it’s indicative of the times. America was obsessed with drugs. Not so much these days. Today, it’s all about the AKs, babe.”
(work from Witherspoon’s 80’s drug portraits.)
Witherspoon is particularly proud of the six-pack of sand-covered MiG-25 Foxbat fighter-bombers he arranged recently, west of Baghdad. “Fuck Christo! I had MiGs, bitch! Top that!” he shouts, before quickly re-composing himself. “Sorry,” he coughed apologetically, “sometimes I get really excited about my work.”
The artist was profoundly disappointed that Iraq did not contain the promised nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that he had hoped to work with-“What the fuck am I supposed to do with a ‘weapons related program activity’? How do you stack a half dozen of those?”
Witherspoon is, however, optimistic about the future: “I can’t wait to get to Iran and Syria. That’s gonna be some good stuff.”