The Spirit/ The Face of War
58 Locations / Curated by Madison Reep
War-related memorials have been a common phenomenon globally for centuries with some of the earliest forms celebrating the glory of war itself and the powerful participants. America’s modernization of war monuments can be dated to directly after the Civil War. The war created a civic need to mend the seams of a splitting nation, and the memorials functioned as a possible means to create an understanding between the two sides by emphasizing the importance of the citizen soldier, focusing on the individual who was affected in the gruesome conflict. Possibly the first example of a standardized Union citizen soldier sculpture is The Sentinel by Randolph Rogers, located in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two popular Civil War monument manufacturers featured near-exact replicas of this citizen soldier in catalogs and marketed them as ready-made designs. The question remains, Who is this man who has become a national symbol for Civil War memorials? In this instance, Rogers was depicting the man who had shot Stonewall Jackson, but later popular variants did not hold the same political sentiment that Rogers was trying to provoke and were focused towards a more generic understanding of the man’s identity.
At the end of World War I the government began to erect memorials to honor the fallen. This encouraged communities to follow suit, and a man named Ernest Moore Viquesney took notice as the national interest rose for these monuments. In 1920 he designed the most famous American World War I figurative memorial, titled The Spirit of the American Doughboy. Many replicas have been crafted, and they have been erected all over the U.S., with Ohio having the most Viquesney figures at fourteen sculptures total. Again we ask, Who was this man who fought for our country in the Great War? The sculpture’s face is a composite of faces of several veterans that Viquesney either met in person or had seen in photographs. Through this, Viquesney was capturing “the spirit” of the Doughboy, not a single exact likeness.
Because of these discoveries, I have titled my tour The Face/ The Spirit of War as an exploration of the unique lives of the participants individually portrayed in sculpture, an investigation of the sculptures that have defined a visual symbol or standard for the remembrance of many individuals in a war, and an observation of the sentiment of communal mourning. My tour intentionally spreads far across all of Ohio. This is not for someone to visit in any kind of order or in a single trip, but is done so that one may find the faces and the spirits of the veterans who fought for their home specifically, whether you’re in Trumbull County, Woodville, or even my hometown, Cleveland. You can gaze upon these sculptural phenomena and remember that SOMEONE, not just anyone, gave you the freedom to do so.
Read the full statement here: http://sculpturecenter.org/oos-doughboydrivingtour/