Police Memorial Essay, Research Paper
Throughout Battery Park, in downtown New York City, the sculpture I found to be most intriguing is the New York City Police Memorial, by Stuart B. Crawford. Memorials and monuments create solid, deeper meaning to the public. This is because memorials contain certain information, which is clear to the viewers. This New York Police Memorial serves as a constant reminder of the officers who have past away serving the people of the city. The emotion that this piece emits is very different compared to sculptures by Alexander Calder or Ned Smyth?s The Upper Room which therefore produce a different kind of interaction of the audience and the piece. In my analysis, I will have a well thought out argument on the reactions of the public to works of public art. I will discus how the Police Memorial?s historical background and how it was developed. I will furthermore provide a formal description of the Memorial and how the work functions.
When an artist displays a work of art in a public place he or she must take into consideration many different aspects before making the structure. The degree of interaction that may take place between the public and the work of art is well thought out by the artists. The artist considers what the piece is portraying and the purpose of making art. At the same time, different types of people are attracted to art in different ways. In this case, viewers are either fascinated by the work, reminded of the deceased, taught a lesson or simply admire the work of art. The reaction of this piece by the public ranges greatly, I witness people interacting with the work to eat their lunch or read a book, as well as people walking by it without noticing it.
Memorials are meant to function as a constant reminder of the people that served the nation in some way and who have died while doing so. This is comparable to cemeteries in a way that it is for people to remember the ones that passed away. Monuments on the other hand, are meant to celebrate life or victory instead of celebrating the dead. They are similar though, in that they both unite the nation as one by bringing the people as viewers. Both monuments and memorials convey greater meanings than other works of public art, because they are functional works of art that operate as an emotional stimulant. They usually have names, dates or sometimes a little passage on the piece that explains the work?s purpose.
There are other public works of art that are also functional. For example, The Upper Room, by Ned Smyth. This is a structure that has chairs and tables, which are created in a very beautiful, pastel colored mosaic. It?s a called a room because it act as an “interior room” although it is part of the exterior environment. A series of columns separates it from the surroundings. People are attracted by the soft pinkish colors and the very elaborate glass and stone mosaics. People go there to eat their lunch, relax, read a book, or just to enjoy the view of the water. Sometimes children go there and pretend the sculpture as a castle or some enchanted site that they imagine. The artist wanted to make a place for the people to come together; to commune and interact with one another. It is a place for the community to take time to relax and to break free from their busy schedule. Where as the Police Memorial is not as brightly colored because it is made to mourn the dead. The sculpture is much more private, and does not attract many viewers. There is a bench for people to sit, but the reactions of the public of these two pieces are clearly different.
In comparing the Police Memorial to the works done by Alexander Calder, a sculptor of mid-twentieth century, I find that his works were more playful and pleasing to the eye. He made large metal, mobile-like pieces that stand outside buildings. His purpose behind the pieces were simpler, it was more a study of forms, shapes, color and balance. So people are attracted to the sculpture because it is a definition of what Art is. Thus they can relate structures like these more to art then the Police Memorial. Calder?s pieces do not function like Smyth?s and Crawford’s.
I will now discuss the historical background of the New York City Police Memorial. Governor Pataki, says that “this memorial is a symbol of our eternal gratitude to these courage officers, and their families.” The city of New York felt that such a structure was to be made to honor the five hundred seventy New York City Police Officers killed in the line of duty since 1854. On 1989 a committee comprised of various NYPD shield groups was formed to decide in where it should be made. After one hundred eighty artists created designs on what the Memorial should look like, Stuart B. Crawford was chosen to do the structure. The work was commissioned by the city, who agreed that such a memorial must be built. There you can see that a lot of time and consideration went into creating this work of Art. An entire Committee carefully chose the exact location and structure of this work. The reaction and interaction of the public was also carefully thought out. The artist wanted to convey a sense of commemoration rather than a sense of cheer or playfulness as in Smyth?s and Calder?s works.
The Police Memorial has three walls that make up a rectangular shape. But the structure is split up into two different sections. Looking at the work, you notice that the left side is a long skinny fountain that leads to the right, where the water is disposed into a little pool. Directly next to the water is a green granite wall, which is approximately six feet tall. The granite wall is very thick and highly polished. Engraved directly on the stone are the names of the deceased police officers. They are listed in alphabetical order by last name according to the year of death from the earliest in 1854 up to the most recent death, in 1996. On the center wall lies a plaque, which states “Dedicated to the memory of those members of the police department who lost their lives in service to the people of the city of New York.” The center wall is not as tall and is made from a different type of stone, which is rough in texture. In between the two separating sections, there are three flag poles, each containing a different flag: the American flag, the state of New York flag and the city of New York flag.
The space that the Memorial is placed in was carefully chosen. It is separated from the rest of the surroundings, and placed in the corner of the Esplanade. The viewer has to make a step down in order to enter into the enclosed memorial where he or she can read the names of the deceased. The step down represents the fall of the police officers, and the Memorial is enclosed to serve as privacy from the outside world.
As I explained, the Police Memorial creates different emotions than the works of Ned Smyth and Alexander Calder. The main components in this difference of interaction are; color, medium, style and location. Each of the artists I discussed, carefully thought out the details of their work in order to gain specific reactions from the viewers. I feel that all of the artists are successful because the people that interact with the works react in the ways the artist intended. These artists not only created works of Art, but they create different moods upon all of their viewers. As I have come into contact with all of these pieces, I noticed my mood was quite different for each.