Returning Home (life size) was designed for American Veterans Park in West Point, NE to be one of two sculptures that tells the story of love and loss. While this sculpture tells the story of love of family, Gold Star Wife (not pictured) tells the story of loss.
A complex, three figure composition Returning Home shows the moment the husband has come home from war and is embraced by his family. They are hugging each other and the sculpture is supposed to evoke the feeling of what it is like for military families that have to endure separation and uncertainty.
With this sculpture I had an opportunity to apply what I’ve learned over the years regarding composition. When I compose a sculpture I am always conscious of how a viewers eye is lead from one section to another. With most of the single figure sculptures it can be difficult because you are dealing with one body only. In this sculpture, however, I had the opportunity to have a unique visual focal point; the gaze between the man and woman. When we first look at the sculpture our eyes immediately go to their faces, first the woman, then the man and back and forth a few times (hopefully). After a few moments ones’ eyes are then directed downwards towards the little girls happy embrace. The cascading arms help to lead the eye down towards the girls face to see that her expression, although different, reflects the couples smiling faces. Then our eyes move back up towards the main focal point or around to various smaller focal points, such as the hands located throughout the sculpture or the poppy that the woman is holding.
In most of my favorite sculptures of historical importance there is one other element that might seem insignificant, but in essence is really important for making a work of art easy on the eyes: having a visual element that leads the eye OUT of the artwork. That is so the eyes, and viewer, can leave at anytime, although they don’t have to. This might seem counter-intuitive to have a place for people to be able to exit the sculpture. But I think of this as like going to a party (at least for me). Imagine you were immediately transported to a party where you knew no one. It would seem that they are all wonderful people but there is one thing that would really put your mind at ease and possibly even make you feel more comfortable. Knowing where the EXIT DOOR is. Whether consciously or subconsciously you would probably immediately look for a door if you were suddenly transported there. In my mind, the same thing happens with artistic composition. While having a well done focal point is probably THE most important part of a design, you also need a place that provides a safe exit. And, on Returning Home, this place of visually exiting the artwork is through the woman’s two feet. They are pointed away from the sculpture and down towards the separately casted heels, breaking the circular composition throughout the sculpture. This is communicating with you, visually, that you are welcome to leave at anytime. But, of course, I hope that you will stay for a while.