Washington

It’s been such a while since I last wrote of my experiences during my visit to the States, but I should like to conclude this minor project by including my stay of four nights in Washington DC.

Washington is an enormous city, because everything appears to have been built on a larger-than-life scale, it made New York’s high rise status shrink visibly in my mind’s eye. Not to say that I particularly liked the feel of the place, in fact I found it had a corporate atmosphere and people were not as friendly as I had found them to be in Boston and New York. The streets are straight and very wide; I found it difficult to get around as public transport was hard to track down, therefore I had to use cabs frequently.

When I first arrived at my hotel, it was around 6pm and dark. I noted that there was a tour bus waiting to leave, and so I dumped my things and jumped aboard. It’s amazing just how many memorials there are in Washington, they’re absolutely everywhere. The bus took us to the Lincoln Memorial which sits amidst an enormous white edifice, with tiers of white steps leading up to it which could aim to reflect the ancient buildings of Greece and Rome, but this was hardly the result. However, maybe because it was dark and the whole memorial was lit up, I found it overwhelming. Lincoln sculpted in white marble gazed downwards onto the scene, remote, enclosed in his own world and the affairs of state.

Lincoln Himself

We then went on to the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial which was on a much smaller scale and presented in separated walled sections. This made it rather a mysterious experience to walk around, coming upon statues of President Roosevelt and Eleanor amongst others, almost by chance. Probably the darkness lit by flood lights added to the shadowy quiet atmosphere in which once or twice I felt lost, not knowing my way back to the bus.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Statue of President Roosevelt with dog

The next day I found my way to the Vietnam Memorial. This was something I definitely wanted to see, I’m not sure why though. I was at Art College during the time of the war, which seemed both remote and endless. This was the first time fighting on such a scale had been available to viewers via TV, but the impact of these relays from the front line were far away in America, and here in the UK people could involve themselves as much or as little as they wished. In America, there was much that grew from the conflict, which was born and brought about by discontent with the American government and the policies upheld there. The war spearheaded the women’s movement, headed by artists such as Nancy Spiro, whose graphic art images depicted its horrors. The Civil Rights Movement ignited across America. I feel incompetent to comment further, but it would seem that the Vietnam War was a massive catalyst for action regarding years of oppression and injustice.

Maya Lin, a Chinese American college student, was only 21 when her memorial design was chosen. I was and still am very impressed by this i.e. how could she cope with such an enterprise at such a young age and produce a construct of such maturity? I found ‘The Wall’ immediately engaging. Made from polished granite, it reflects people and the surrounding nature of the park in which it is situated. The soldiers’ names, carved into it via a V shape, begin at ground level and rise to an apex at the centre. The listed names read chronologically by date of casualty rather than alphabetically, beginning in 1959.

I spent a long time here walking up and down taking photographs and pondering the issues that this memorial demanded. I believe that families that have had losses find a poignancy and meaning in searching for their particular family members amongst their comrades; I am glad to have visited it.

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