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Face of Defense: Desert Landscape Inspires Artful Airman

By Air Force Senior Airman Joel Mease
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 3, 2013 – Some might see the desert as brown, dusty and generally void of life. But while they may fail to see much color in the desert skyline, a maintenance noncommissioned officer deployed here sees a landscape full of potential.

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While deployed to Southwest Asia, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carr started an art collection by painting rocks found on the desert floor and leaving them for service members to improve morale. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Mease

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

It all started a few months ago, when Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carr was kicking around some rocks, as so many service members like him have done before.

"I kicked over this one rock and it just clicked," said Carr, an aircraft battle damage repair technician with the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. "It was just the perfect canvas, and best of all, it was free and there were plenty of them."

At first, he said, he just doodled on the rock with a marker, but then he felt there was so much more he could do with it.

"I've always been a fan of art since I was a kid," said Carr, who hails from Birmingham, Ala. He thought a little paint could do wonders for the rock.

"So I contacted my better half in the United States and asked her to send my paint and brushes," he said.

What started as a small art project morphed into an art gallery full of rocks -- 60 of them so far -- with the goal of making someone smile, Carr said. Some of the rocks have special characteristics, adding texture to simulate the bumps on a frog, for example.

Carr’s gallery of rocks, though, isn't meant to be a private collection. He plans on randomly leaving his artwork throughout the installation with the hope of adding a little color to someone's day.

"Maybe you will see a cartoon character on top of a napkin holder at the dining facility, or maybe you've had a really bad day as you're waiting at the bus stop and you look down to see a frog sitting on the bench," Carr said. "Hopefully, it's something that brightens your day, and [makes you] say, 'Hey maybe things aren't that bad.'"

Whenever people encounter one of his roughly three-inch pieces of art, he said, it's up to them what they would like to do with it.

"You could pick it up and take it with you, or maybe even lay it somewhere else for someone else to kick over and find," Carr said. "Maybe it will inspire others to do their own artwork, or leave an inspirational message if you're not an artist."

Carr’s artwork already has made an impact on his co-workers, according to his flight chief, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Morris.

"His enthusiasm is contagious," Morris said. "Tech. Sergeant Carr does a great job of translating that artwork into a positive outlook to his fellow aircraft maintainers."

Carr's flight chief said he first heard Carr’s plans about his artwork during a routine walk outside the maintenance facility looking for debris that could pose a safety hazard. Carr picked up a plain rock, he added, and said, "This is really nice."

"I asked him why, and upon learning about his talents and plans to disperse them, I was a bit skeptical at first until I saw his work," Morris said. "Then I knew it was for real. In my more than 24 years in the Air Force, I've never met anyone with his unique skill set."

Whatever a person does with his artwork, Carr said, he hopes it allows them to see the installation as something more than a military base in the desert.

"They always say … to make things better for all those coming behind you," Carr said. That's just what he intends to do, he added.


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