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Art Review

The event I am going to review is the Wilkes-Barre sculpture tour that I attended several days ago with my classmates and professor. We were shown a variety of artworks, each of which was unique and memorable. Statues and sculptures of different artist-craftsmen made in different years were presented to our attention but I want to focus on two pieces of art that I remembered most, namely the bronze “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” made by talented Gerhard Baut in 1988 and James Butler and the bronze statue “John Wilkes” made by James Butler in 1988 representing different historical eras. As a British journalist, writer and politician of the Enlightenment, a tireless advocate of the people’s freedom, Wilkes was one of the key figures in the development of European radicalism; the “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” is created in the honor of the courageous men and women who fought in the Vietnam War and described as a testament to the sacrifice of the U.S. military during the nation’s war.

My attention, as well as the attention of my classmates, was drawn to “The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” dedicated to thousands of victims. During the tour, I have learned that we can find place inside of our hearts for the heroes and keep the memory about them after leaving the place. The monument brings tears. Vietnam Veteran Memorial is created especially to honor men and women who lost their lives in the war. For me, this tour, especially the memorial to the heroes was a deeply moving place, a place where everyone witnesses sadness, powerful emotion, a celebration of life. I knew that we were standing in the company of brave heroes. People who loved their nation sacrificed their lives for their families.

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The bronze, touching sculpture “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” was designed by talented Gerhard Baut in 1988. The outdoor male sculpture honors servicemen from the Luzerne County who participated in the Vietnam War. The monument lists the names of people killed in action and the prisoners of war engraved on its base. Local veterans regularly hold remembrance ceremonies at the memorial. A Vietnam soldier dressed in the military uniform holds a broken knife in his right hand and a crown of stars in the left. He stands on top of a huge stone reflecting the symbolic return of Pennsylvania’s soldiers. The crown of stars in the left hand symbolizes divisions of the Armed forces. The impressive memorial sculpture provides a template for social healing and reconciliation, including aspects of war’s losses. The sculpture’s scale makes the work stunningly original with the strikingly modern design. I noticed a bouquet of fresh flowers that was laid next to the bronze sculpture of a standing Vietnam soldier. The sacrifice of the brave men during the war made it possible for millions of Americans to live in freedom. Many would say that the USA is the greatest country due to sacrifices that women and servicemen made during that period. All marines, soldiers, pilots and sailors are bound together in this sculpture regardless of their military service.

As the national memorial, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial honors thousands of heroes annually spreading the idea that veterans will always be remembered. I think that the Baut’s sculpture is a reminder for today’s generation that no war veteran should be unnoticed and forgotten. It was created with the idea to show how citizens remember the warriors that won freedom and secured peace for the next generations. Honoring courageous people, who served in the controversial war, the Memorial chronologically lists the names of thousands of Americans who gave their lives in service to their Homeland.

The Vietnam War was the longest military war in American history that lasted for sixteen years (Herring, 2001). Thousands of Americans were killed, wounded and listed as prisoners of war. Many went missing during the campaign. “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” is a reminder of strong individuals who died in all wars, as well as the servicemen who continue fighting overseas.

The sculpture of an unknown Vietnam veteran separates the warrior from the war. Moreover, it focuses on the valor of the patriots and provides each of them a proper place in the history. The American nation owes much to people who fought for freedom fifty-five years ago. They deserved the public trust and honor, leaving their families, shouldering their burden and bravely fighting to protect oppressed people. Thousands suffered terrible hardships and huge casualties.

The commemorative sculpture, depicting the unknown Vietnam veteran, represents an unusual approach to commemoration that is evident in the memorial. The sentimental focus is placed on the veterans’ travail, an emphasis on the US casualties and the conception of healing and loss. According to Hagopian (2009), a public focus on veterans and the considerable attention to the dead were adapted to secure people’s sympathy for heroes who fought.

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Another masterpiece that amazed me during the tour was the material bronze sculpture of legendary John Wilkes created by James Butler and unveiled in 1988. John Wilkes was the radical member of the British Parliament, who campaigned for comprehensive parliamentary reforms, civil liberties and freedom of the press. The large statue of John Wilkes reflects his heroism and strong personality. During his life, he earned a reputation as a libertine. The parliamentarian was frequently expelled from the House of Commons and later outlawed. Since Wilkes has a prominent squint, it is not surprisingly that the eight-foot statue squints too. The statue represents the tall man, who wears a frock coat and puts his right hand on a hip. He stands on a stone plinth holding a parliamentary document in the left hand with the inscription on the reverse side. The bronze statue created by James Butler is larger if compared to a real size of the man. The foremost figurative sculptor shows Wilkes dressing as a respectable personality of the 18th century. For me, the parliamentarian was represented as the radical politician and champion of English freedom, rebellious colonial sympathizer who knew how to reach goals and be successful in life. Being in the same mold as the original statue in England, Wilkes stands as a symbol of his heritage. Despite the fact that the parliamentarian is described as the champion of English freedom on the plinth, some people disparagingly regard him as the ugliest man in the country, who was famous for its indecent behavior with females competing with men. Other people rarely combined beauty and odium in Wilkes. Although he was an ill-tempered person, many people would like his ideas and principles if they got to know him more closely from the history annals and books. It is important for today’s generation to recognize John Wilkes contributions.

The event I attended during the classes between 5:00 and 7:00 pm with my classmates and professor on Wednesday was memorable. The ideas were made clear with “John Wilkes”, “the Ribbon”, and “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial”. However, it could have been clearer with “Robert Wood and Company” and the “American song”. With no doubts, if I have an opportunity to attend this walking tour again, I will definitely come. The statue of “John Wilkes” and “Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial” amazed me the most, since I always commemorate important historical events and personalities that left a great legacy for the modern generation.