I just learned today, via a Veterans Day article by Michael Sawyers in the Cumberland Times-News, that the famous painting Reflections, depicting a meeting of the living and the dead at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was painted in 1988 in Cumberland, Md. Self-taught artist Lee Teter used locals as models.
Teter gave the print rights to the painting to the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, which later bought all rights from him. Many of the chapter's good works have been made possible by sales of hundreds of thousands of those prints. Wind River Gallery in Riverton, Wyo., which sells Teter's Western paintings, calls Reflections "perhaps the most collected art print in the 20th century."
The chapter's website tells Teter's story and the story of the painting. Here's Teter's official site; he now lives in Wyoming.
What became of the original painting, I wonder, as opposed to the prints? Does the Cumberland VVA chapter have it?
Also in today's Times-News, a Scripps-Howard wire story usefully reminds us that Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (which the Yale undergrad created as a student project) was considered so unconventional, so controversial, that it almost didn't get built. Only the addition of traditional, predictable elements -- a statue and a flagpole -- made the project palatable to its many detractors, including many Vietnam veterans who now venerate it. Today, the statue and the flagpole are fine, but they aren't what draw millions of people to the Wall.
Jan Scruggs, who led the monument's fund-raising campaign, puts the Wall in its proper context: "This has changed the way America mourns, changed the way the public deals with trauma."
There's a lesson here about public art. The people who objected to the Wall's design are the same people, in spirit, who as residents of Paris wanted to scrap the Eiffel Tower once the world's fair was over.