Gold Star Mother at Gracelawn Cemetery is a tribute to all of the Gold Star families that have lost children in war. The sculpture honors the families in the US, but its design was inspired by old European cemetery art.
Beautiful and Old
Some of the most beautiful sculptures I have seen are located in old historic cemeteries. Many of these aged sculptures show great craftsmanship and talent. Often times the subjects are of grieving women and angels and are usually ignored by the art seeking public. It’s easy to understand why they aren’t revered as great art; sculptures in cemeteries are usually somber figures representing the non-living. Nothing joyful or hopeful about them. They don’t represent dreams or ambitions but instead death, something we all try to avoid.
All too often, these outdoor statues don’t have any kind of maintenance plan in place. But perhaps their neglect makes them even more beautiful. With the oxidized surfaces of blues and greens adding to the emotional scene maybe they were intended to age naturally. This does make me wonder though; how did they look when they were fresh from the art studios that made them.
It makes sense that these old sculptures have been neglected. After all, the people that they represent are long gone. And it’s likely that the family or friend that commissioned the statue are also long gone.
But these uncared for bronze sculptures don’t have to be ignored. The cemeteries that own the artworks can take steps towards maintaining their collection. As much as they spend on maintaining the grounds, I can’t imagine not having funds to clean and wax the sculptures. If there is no plan in place eventually the oxidation process will morph the patina into greens and blues. In time, the sculpture will not look as young and pretty as it once did.
Looking in the Past for Inspiration
In 2017, I created concept sketches for a sculpture to honor Gold Star Mothers. The sketch I created was inspired by these oxidized and neglected cemetery sculptures. One sculpture, in particular, caught my attention and inspired me with my final designs. A grieving woman kneeling at a grave and clutching a flower in her hand captured my attention and imagination. Who is she and who is she grieving for? What’s her story. Although the history of this old sculpture is unknown and appears to be uncared for it is nonetheless a beautiful and great work of art. At least in my humble opinion.
The finished life size bronze sculpture of Gold Star Mother was installed at Gracelawn Cemetery in Edmond, Oklahoma in the Spring of 2021. Established in 1895, Gracelawn Cemetery contains the graves of some of Edmonds prominent leaders. The sculpture has become the heart of the cemetery, as I was later told. It has received visitors during Memorial Day and Gold Star Mothers Day since it’s installation earlier this year.
On Memorial Day, Josh Spinger, a photographer from Oklahoma captured the sculpture during a small ceremony. The photographs are vivid and full of emotion. They remind me of the sculpture that inspired her and the full circle it made. Inspired by an old cemetery sculpture and installed at an old cemetery.