The Amazing Sculpture Coming to the Nation’s Capital in September

Published: 14 May 2024

By Jack Fowler
via the National Review magazine website

Sabin-Howard

Sculptor Sabin Howard works on a sculpture.(tracislatton/Screenshot via YouTube)

On the downside of contemplating sculptures in 2024, one cannot help but wonder: Someday, will this new thing of beauty and deep meaning be torn down by a future generation’s misfits and miscreants and rewriters of history? We hope not. Instead of such worry-warting though, we should consider the “this thing” — colossal, powerful, natural, expressive, dignified, heroic — coming to Washington, D.C ., this September: the National World War One Memorial.

The work of renowned sculptor Sabin Howard, who just may be the coolest dude one could ever meet, the 58-foot-long, multi-figured, way-beyond life-sized bronze work, A Soldier’s Journey, is as engrossing and dramatic as it will be vast and beautiful. Now being cast, the sculpture tells the tale of one Everyman American Soldier who went “Over There”:

In the departure, the soldier’s daughter hand him his helmet, while his wife touches him with a restraining arm, as if to hold him back as he answers the call to battle — representing the debate over American involvement in the war. In the initiation, the soldier joins the parade to war, as the United States joins the epic battle in Europe.

The parade, and the work as a whole, includes African Americans and other ethnic groups who answered their country’s call.

In the middle scene, the ordeal, the parade devolves into the tension before the charge and then the tumult of desperate and violent combat. At the center our hero calls his comrades into battle, illustrating the famous American battle cry from Belleau Wood: “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

The aftermath depicts the physical and mental wounds of the fighters. Here are represented American women who served at home and on the fighting front. And here the turbulent, left-to-right narrative pauses, as the hero stops and looks directly at the viewer. The soldier’s look of shock and loss – the thousand-year stare – along with the empty helmets piled at his feet, invite the viewer to stop and contemplate with him the costs of war.

In the return, the soldier rejoins the homecoming parade. One figure look back with pride, while a flag bearer leads the country forward into “the American century.” Our soldier returns home and hands his helmet back to his daughter. She looks into the helmet and sees World War II, the war that will bring America back to Europe little more than 20 years later.

It’s tempting, pre-installation and anticipatory, to pick a fight with the insipid dilettantes who hate depicting humans as recognizable humans, who loathe the honoring of martial sacrifice, who cringe at art that cannot help but tug at the heartstrings or induce the observer to see the sacred — all of which is sure to be prompted by Howard’s profound work. Instead, here and now, one’s time is better spent working up an appetite for the unusual and nowadays singular event, this September unveiling of art that is mighty and patriotic and gob-smacking. Do that, I humbly suggest, by watching this:

Another humble suggestion: Consider reading this Smithsonian article on the insane amount of work — colossal, if you will — that has gone into the making of A Soldier’s Journey.

You will thank me!

Read the entire article on the National Review web site.
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