“Lady Liberty, Inspiring Even In Pieces”
Fresh Paint Post by Kunal Kang
The Statue of Liberty is the epitome of democracy in America. Having stood in New York’s harbor for over a hundred years, the Statue of Liberty is a shining beacon of hope not only to New Yorkers, but Americans as a whole. To me, it is such an amazing and comforting thing to see the Statue standing there on my ferry rides to and from the city every day. It provides me with hope for the future and reminds me of all the opportunities I have because I am fortunate enough to live here in America.
This personal feeling towards the Statue of Liberty was inspired in me by Hilarie M. Sheets article “Lady Liberty, Inspiring Even In Pieces”. This article tells about how an artist named Danh Vo “has been recasting a life-size Statue of Liberty” from copper, just like the original. Vo has called his creation “We the People”, a reference to the United States Constitution, but here’s the catch: Vo has been separating the pieces of his work and scattering them around the world after they are made. Several pieces of Vo’s work are now visible at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, but the pieces will be viewable at 15 select locations around the world once they are finished being made. Vo has talked about his work being “both a monster and a virus that can move fluidly and mutate as it is shuffled to new places”.
Officially, Vo has not revealed his intended meaning for his project but Susanne Ghez, a director at the University of Chicago, has said that “it raises the question of democratization in the U.S. and our history of imperialism”. By taking a well known symbol of American freedom and scattering the pieces, Vo is either trying to say that democracy and freedom is spreading throughout the world through America’s influence or that American freedom itself is being threatened and on the verge of being broken apart. Both messages are powerful (one good, one bad) and I think Vo realized this when he refused to comment about the meaning and purpose of his work. I believe Vo intended each individual to see his project and make their own personal decision about it.
I felt that Vo’s project exhibited America’s freedom being torn apart, although I do not feel that this is true. When I read this article, it affected me deeply because the Statue of Liberty has always been something so solid and everlasting. To me, Vo’s scattering of he pieces of his Lady Liberty represented the breaking apart of democracy itself in America because it contrasts with the unified and guided appearance of the actual Statue of Liberty. Also, the image of a recreation of an important American symbol being broken up and scattered around the world angered me because I felt it did not fully respect an important piece of American history. The only thing I could compare it to in my mind is that cutting up and scattering of the American flag, which many would consider a heinous act. Yes, American has been going through some hard times but it has never stopped being the leading symbol of hope and freedom in the world, seeking to help those less fortunate. Vo’s work, though unique and unprecedented, send a negative and unrealistic view of America that I do not agree with.
What about you? Do you think Vo’s work is celebrating or eulogizing democracy? How do you feel about democracy in America?