Sunday, May 28, 2006

Happy Memorial Day!!

Taking this opportunity to look at some of the symbols of this holiday, but not without criticism: “Now, Memory Fails Us: Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong With the Statues of Monumental Washington” by Paul Richard:

"The fallen mustn't be forgotten. We used words like "the fallen" then. That seriousness bred art. That art would shape the country's look, and Washington's especially. Vast amounts of money, artistry and effort would be expended on its making. The beauty of the art would illumine its high purpose -- to immortalize remembrance. Strewn flowers weren't enough. The fallen would be given stone-and-metal monuments impervious to time.

Washington is filled with them. If you want to get Memorial Day, look around at the memorials. They're victors' monuments. They put generals on pedestals, and dead presidents above them. Washington's memorials share a certain style. Their statues aren't just portraits, though they're often that, as well; they're personified ideals. Their bronze laurel wreaths and eagles, and Greco-Roman lions, say: The past approves of us. They're insistently high-minded, august.

They represent an art movement, now dead. For a long time their architects and artists, their stone-carvers and bronze-founders got better and better. For a long time their elevated style got nobler and nobler. Then, suddenly, it died.

It died a poignant death -- at the peak of its accomplishment, just when it got great. We know the date exactly. Memorial sculpture's greatness left Washington forever on the 30th of May, Memorial Day, 1922.
Making mighty monumental statues of the great used to be an art form, a Washington art form. Not any more.

It's Memorial Day. Take a moment. Stand up, take your hats off, think of what the nation's lost."

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