A Marine takes a step, stops, looks over his shoulder and is immortalized in a moment in time in a bronze sculpture.
Artist Benjamin Victor was selected to design the Newport Beach memorial to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. His maquette, or small-scale model, was unveiled Friday at City Hall.
The sculpture of a young Marine is set against a polished black-granite backdrop, providing what Victor described as a mirror effect, where the Marine’s face in profile can be seen in reflection.
Victor interviewed countless soldiers when considering his design, listening to testimonies from families and expressions of gratitude from soldiers who spoke of how grateful they were to return home “without a scrape.”
Victor said designer Maya Ying Lin’s famed Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. changed the way Americans looked at war. He wanted his piece to be open to interpretation by each individual observer.
Is the soldier on his way to war, stopping to look back at the family he is leaving behind, possibly never to return? Is the soldier already engaged in warfare, looking back at the life he lived before?
In the packet he submitted to the committee for consideration, Victor described the nature of his design.
“This will not only be a powerful visual metaphor for the Marine leaving for war never to return, but also an artistic response to the fact that every Marine is profoundly changed by their experiences in battle.”
The completed project, to be dedicated in Castaways Park on Memorial Day, 2008, will stand 9 feet tall and weigh almost a ton. The solid, black-granite slab will weigh almost 1,500 pounds, and the cast bronze statue about 700 pounds.
Victor will ship the piece from his studio in Aberdeen, S.D. to Newport Beach on a freight truck. His installation team will set the memorial in place in the park on May 15. The piece will be covered until the dedication.
Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry said Victor’s design was unanimously chosen by the selection committee from among five applications that were submitted.
“We’re very proud and thrilled with Victor’s design. The response from the community has been overwhelming,” Curry said, and the maquette will remain on display in City Hall.
On the back side of the granite memorial will be the name of every service man and woman who served in the 1/1, as well as the Battalion’s emblem.
Female Marines Victor spoke to said they didn’t see the Marine as male.
The bronze soldier they saw was just a Marine in uniform, and they identified with that, Victor said.
In naming the piece, Victor said the title would be simple, to keep it from being overly sentimental.
“The piece itself has a lot of sentiment to it,” he said. “I am incredibly excited and have put all my energy into creating this memorial in my home state of California.”
SUE THOENSEN may be reached at (714) 966-4627 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.