Warnerville, New York

Peter Shulman's War

One sculptor's lifelong war game is the largest and longest running miniature campaign in history. 

Artist Peter Shulman has been channeling his personal pain into a war between the Green (good) and the Gray (bad) for over 60 years, hand-crafting legions of soldiers and fleets of vehicles to skirmish around his wooded home.

Ever since he was a young boy with nothing more to play with than a block of clay, sculptor Peter Shulman has been staging conflicts between the figures he would sculpt. Beginning with a scenario involving a boat that could only carry half of the passengers trying to board it, the battles grew into a full blown war by the time he was a young adult. Sculpting unique figures and equipping them with model vehicles, Shulman worked through his issues and frustrations in battles staged in basements, backyards, and eventually on a small island. By the time he had graduated college, served in the military, and returned, the artist had equipped his war with tanks, an air force, and countless handcrafted soldiers modeled after people he knew.

It wasn’t until his first couple of marriages that Shulman put away the war toys, boxing them up and never mentioning the epic battles to either of his first two spouses. That might have been the end of the war, but for a chance visit by comedian Richard Pryor, who ended up playing war with Shulman there and then. With his shame over playing with toys eliminated by Pryor’s validating visit, Shulman took the toys out of storage and reignited the war in earnest.

Continuing to build new soldiers and continually expanding his fleet of model vehicles over the years, Shulman moved across multiple homes pitting his positive Green forces (who are only outfitted with American equipment) against the negative Gray forces (who can be outfitted with equipment from any other country) on his increasingly expansive properties. As of 2010, Shulman’s collection included 1,100 jets, 3,000 vehicles, and a staggering 58,000 sculpted figures, to say nothing of the battle remnants he has left on previous battlefields. In 1993, Shulman finally even let women into his corps (as aircraft pilots only), basing some of his models on friends and lovers.

Shulman has developed his own rules to the game over his years of play, and while the 60-plus year old war is a well-known endeavor, the artist has never allowed an outsider to actually see him play the game. However field reports and accounts of the battles are kept by Shulman so that the thousands of deaths and conflicts he has created will not have been in vain.  

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