The transformation of permanent art
I made two life size outdoor statues that are similar to each other in pose and feeling, but they are two different sculptures. Over time the meaning of the first one changed and I feel compelled to dissect how this happened. The two sculptures are Remembering and Remembering the Fallen. The transformation of permanent art happens. As we continue to create art, especially when we revisit a theme, it’s original concept can change. While both are US Marines kneeling and remembering, there are two slight differences that I’ll try to articulate here.
Remembering is a kneeling soldier from the war on terror and represents a soldier fighting in the War in Afghanistan. This was the first US Marine I sculpted and was made a few years before Remembering the Fallen. The life size sculpture was modeled after a friend, a US Marine who served at the start of the war in Afghanistan.
The Marine is kneeling holding his combat helmet in his right arm and his left hand raised up against a wall. The wall is symbolic. It could be a concrete wall that was blasted from an attack or a wall symbolizing remembrance. The bronze military sculpture was designed to be remembering a fallen brother. That was what I had in my head while creating the original in clay. Over the years, however, the meaning has changed. This is partially due to the creation of another in the series, which I’ll detail below. I’ve reimagined him as remembering not a single soldier. Instead, he is remembering the sacrifices he and others make for the sake of freedom. Or perhaps it is the collateral loss or the price of war. Memories stay with us especially traumatic ones.
Remembering the Fallen
Remembering the Fallen is the second version in my Remembering “series” and was sculpted in 2017. This modern day soldier is not clutching his helmet or with his hand raised to a wall, but instead he is holding a folded flag. A ceremonial folded flag.
When I first made this sculpture my thought was would an active-duty soldier really be carrying a folded flag to combat? Initially, this question persisted in my head. But, I decided, after internal debating, if he recently lost a family member in war he might carry one.
This soldier is in a different emotional loss than the first Remembering. He takes the loss deeper. Deep enough to carry the most important memory he now has of his brother or sister, to the most dangerous locations on earth. To honor and to hold someone close one last time.
The meaning behind this newer sculpture seems to have transformed my thoughts on the previous sculpture. It’s weird how that happens.
When I first posted Remembering the Fallen on social media, it went something near viral. It had hundreds of shares in a matter of days. It was impressive. I immediately started getting emails, private messages and phone calls from people who fell in love with it. They were from all over the country and what a surprise it was!
Meaning of an artwork can change, but the artwork itself doesn’t
It is interesting how time changes our views on something. Time changes our views on life, family, things we cherish or don’t cherish. We may have hated some of our teachers when we were in school but now we see their good side. But to stay on track, views on art change as well with time even though the artwork doesn’t. The transformation of permanent art is very real. In the case of Remembering vs. Remembering the Fallen, I think that because I had created a similar mood and pose with the second sculpture that it changed my views on the first sculpture.
I have admired and continue to admire many works of art, especially through social media which makes it easy to study someones artwork. Some artwork seem to have meaning or feeling that changes with time. Perhaps morphing into something else. I imagine the Mona Lisa and the Thinker are the best examples. They weren’t seen as icons of painting or sculpture right out of the womb, but they are now.
An artworks feeling/energy/meaning/depth etc changes with time. But all artwork doesn’t change on the same level. Some probably don’t change at all. And that is what is fascinating to me. What makes artwork stand the test of time?
As I approach half a century on our planet art becomes more and more important to me. Some might say art is even more valued today with social media and the broader audience artists can get. Art changes us and gives us a place to put our thoughts and emotions. Art can be our worst enemy one day and our best friend the next. While the artwork itself doesn’t change, maybe we do.