Two Memorials

As a commissioned art maker working with existing spaces I rely on partnership with a client to produce a work.  Since most of my projects are in the Northeast USA where snow and hard frost restrict my production to the three frost-free seasons I’m left to my own devices in the winter months.  Last winter I made scale models in clay to develop the final design for a dry stone sculpture realized this past fall in Connecticut.  The winter before was occupied with writing essays for “Listening to Stone.”  Early in my career I worked winters building fireplaces, repairing furniture, pruning apple trees and setting out sap lines in a maple sugar bush.

This winter I’m taking some time to visit art museums, memorials and sculpture gardens.  Between Christmas and New Years Day Elin and I traveled to Washington, DC where we viewed the Lincoln and the Vietnam Veterans Memorials at night.  Both were a first visit for me.  The only other time I’d been on the National Mall was in 1970 at a rally to protest the war in Vietnam.  The contrast between the two memorials, each beautiful in their own way, was striking.

The sense of absence was palpable around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  It crept out over the darkened lawn surrounding the earth depression defined by the “V” shaped walls of black granite. Lighting along the walkway within the memorial was subdued.  It barely illuminated the thousands of names inscribed on the wall surfaces.

From the columned opening of the nearby Lincoln Memorial came a glow of light reflected from the larger-than-life, white marble, statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln.  This was a memorial occupied to overflowing with the force of a single personality.  Most surprising to me was the finished texture of the sculpture.  Only having seen photos in the past, I assumed  the surfaces to be polished.  The work was left rough, perhaps a rasp file making the final tool marks. A fitting tribute to a man full of grit.

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