Editor's note: The following article was reprinted in Resource Library on June17, 2010 with permission of the author and Brookgreen Gardens. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact Brookgreen Gardens directly at P.O. Box 3368, Pawleys Island, SC 29585: or:



 

Red, White, and Blue: American Sculpture for and by Veterans

by Robin R. Salmon 

 

A number of the artworks at Brookgreen Gardens have patriotic themes or were designed originally as American war memorials. These iconic images represent freedom, strength, victory, and loss as shown through the eyes of talented sculptors. An exhibit celebrating these themes is open in the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion at Brookgreen Gardens, May 8-July 25. It displays models of several well known monuments including the Marine Corps Memorial by Felix de Weldon, the US Navy Memorial by Stanley Bleifeld, the Korean War Veterans Memorial by Frank Gaylord, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial by Glenna Goodacre. Several enlargements of archival photographs also present the American Memorial at Normandy by Donald De Lue and the East Coast War Memorial by Albino Manca, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Frederick Hart, and other important American monuments. 

During World Wars I and II, many sculptors served in the military or in military support jobs stateside and some of their contributions are spotlighted in the exhibit.  For example, despite the protests of her husband and family, who urged her to give money but not risk her life, sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942) sailed for France with 25 doctors and nurses and for five months directed her own field hospital at Juilly, near the front lines. Profoundly affected by her experiences, Whitney created a series of small bronzes of soldiers. In 1945, George Demetrios (1896-1974) was commissioned by the US Army Chemical Warfare Service to work with a laboratory at MIT to select head shapes which would be typical of all the GIs in the nation. Using the lab's data, he sculpted 10 heads (five average and five unusual sizes) and cast them in bronze.  From these, gas masks were developed in sizes, resulting in a single mask to fit any one of the heads. After materials for sculpture were sharply curtailed, Demetrios became interested in experiments with a new terra-cotta that had strength, fine texture, and was virtually non-shrinking.  Several casts were possible from one set of molds, appealing to sculptors everywhere.

Cecil Howard (1888-1956) was stationed in France and Serbia during World War I in a British hospital unit operating with the French Red Cross.  Early in World War II, he served with the American Red Cross in France, bringing food and medicine to men in German prison camps. Arrested, he escaped in late 1940. Howard was then attached to the Office of Strategic Services in 1943, and accompanied the US Army as an intelligence officer during the landing at Normandy. He served with Intelligence and the Cultural Relations Service of the Office of War Information in Paris until the end of the war. Frank Eliscu (1912-1996) served with the Medical Corps during World War II, using sculpture as an aid to plastic surgery. He continued in this work after the war, engaging in research into pigmentation of skin grafts and becoming a specialist associated with New York Hospital. Edwin Deming (1860-1942) served in World War I as a special instructor in marksmanship. He was commissioned a captain in the US Army, appointed senior officer in the camouflage department of the Infantry School of Arms first at Camp Perry, OH, then at Camp Benning, GA, and his design for a target was adopted as a standard. Working together, James Lippett Clark (1883-1969) and Carl Akeley (1864-1926) developed a new camera which was manufactured for the US government during World War I, and developed special clothing and survival equipment for pilots forced down in remote areas during World War II. And scores of other sculptors performed heroic acts, developed cutting-edge inventions, and furthered the war effort.

Brookgreen's "Red, White, and Blue Salute to Veterans", an event held each Memorial Day Weekend, honors those who served by placing American flags at patriotic sculptures and sculptors in the gardens. A handout provided in the gallery lists the artists in the Brookgreen collection that served in the military and any war memorials that they created. In this exhibit, we celebrate our men and women in uniform, past and present, always remembering that freedom is not free. 

About the author

Robin Salmon is vice president for collections and curator of sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where she has been on staff since 1975. She holds degrees in history and art history from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of the Museum Management Institute. She is currently the exhibitions advisor for the National Sculpture Society and has been on the editorial board of its publication, Sculpture Review. Ms. Salmon is a former chair of the Curator's Committee of the Southeastern Museums Conference, and she has been a research fellow of the Waccamaw Center for Historical and Cultural Studies at Coastal Carolina University

 


 

(above: George Lunden, Field of Blue. Photo courtesy of Brookgreen Gardens)

 

(above: Veryl Goodnight, Mending the Flag. Photo courtesy of Brookgreen Gardens)

 

Resource Library editor's note

The above text was reprinted in Resource Library on June 17, 2010, with permission of the author and Brookgreen Gardens, which was granted to TFAO on June 14, 2010.

Red, White, and Blue: American Sculpture for and by Veterans is on exhibit at Brookgreen Gardens May 8 through July 25, 2010.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Helen Benso, Vice-President - Marketing, Brookgreen Gardens for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

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