Drafted into the army in 1942, Mullican despaired: "I remember when I took the train from Oklahoma City to Fort Sill to begin basic training, I cried most of the way. I just felt like it was the end of the earth. It was the end of the world for me." While in the army, however, he was able to study topography and mapmaking, activities later evoked in the graphic marks and patterns of his artwork. Stationed outside Washington, D.C., he visited museums, where he was exposed to Surrealism and Expressionism, which would become pervasive influences in his paintings and wooden sculptures, as would the indigenous sculpture of the Pacific Northwest and the American Southwest. Natural and everyday materials—such as sticks and thread—come together to create masklike forms, imbued with magic and ritual qualities. The construction is, as he noted, "part of a 'ceremony'—one that can't last forever."
Gallery label from Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War, October 24, 2015-March 20, 2016.