Saturday, December 23, 2006

Statue of Liberty: OMOM Essay 1

Since the essays in Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan are arranged to be convenient for a walking tour, from the southern end of Manhattan heading north, the first sculpture I had to write about was the Statue of Liberty. That was difficult: I'd seen so many photos and replicas of Liberty that I didn’t actually "see" her any more. What could I possibly write that wouldn’t be trite and repetitious?

I decided to try to shake off the modern context by investigating what Liberty meant to those who commissioned her. It turns out she wasn't meant to be a welcoming figure for immigrants: she was an advertisement for liberty by a group of men living under a repressive regime. That became the focus of "About the Subject."

The most delightful discovery in my research on Liberty was a pamphlet written by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi to help raise funds for her construction. Bartholdi makes fascinating comments on how he chose the site for Liberty and on the factors he had to consider when designing a huge statue that would sit a mile from the shore. I quote him extensively in "About the Subject" and the Sidebar.

As far as I can tell Bartholdi's pamphlet hasn't been reprinted or made available on the Web. I read it on a ratty microfilm at the Humanities Research branch of New York Public Library.

1 comment:

"van Vliet" Art Blog said...

Thanks for this new daily source of inspiring information, learning the background story behind these monumental works of art. Ever since you began this undertaking I have been watching and reading. I am glad for your success thus far. Here's to your bright future.