• beaspoli

Memorable Art and Artistic Memorials


I spent a busy weekend in DC, after attending the AIA National Leadership Institute 2018, on Friday. THAT was a very positive experience, on which I will write a separate article.

After boosting my professional skills, I went on exploring DC. It wasn't my first time, but I explored it with fresh eyes, after not being there for a long while.


My first stop was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Lin. Surrounded by fall foliage colors, and filled with people and Veterans, the Memorial was even more impressive than the first time I visited it.

One of the volunteers on site gave us a detailed and touching description of how the Memorial was built. We learned how Maya Lin designed even the smallest details, which are magnified by her deep thoughtfulness.

The Memorial is thought as a wound in the earth, and people visiting it are sinking and then re-emerging from the cut. The names are displayed in chronological order of soldiers' death. This tell the story of the people who fought, plus the Veterans can find their fellow comrades-in-army all in the same place.

The black and polished granite walls folds like a book, bending at the center. There, on the East wall, the firsts to die in 1959 are ideally reunited with the last ones in 1975, as the West wall where the East one begins.

The visit is thought as a healing procession for the visitors and for the Veterans.

I noticed that there are either diamonds or crosses, separating names. The crosses indicate that a body has not been found yet. When the remainings are identified, crosses get filled to become diamonds.

Despite the bitter cold, listening to the explanation of the Memorial will remain one of my fondest memories of this trip to DC.


Another stop that I loved was at the National Gallery of Art - mainly the East Building, as designed by I. M. Pei. I could see only a fraction of the masterpieces on display, but I took my time to explore the extensive exhibit on Rachel Whitebread. Incredibly enough, I could take all the pics I wanted!

Whether she is filling objects (or spaces) with concrete, or recreating common objects in an apparently playful way, Rachel Whiteread psychologically invades your space: you'll never be able to take a bath again, without frantically thinking if, by entering it, you are now the positive of the negative of the positive. Or vice versa.

Rachel Whiteread, British, born 1963, Untitled (Yellow Bath), 1996, rubber and polystyrene, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, The Henry L. Hillman Fund, 1996. © Rachel Whiteread. Image courtesy the artist/ Gagosian, London/ Luhring Augustine, New York/ Galleria Lorcan O'Neill

Her process is conceptually very simple: she casts the empty space, in order to reveal what we typically don't notice. She calls attention to the invisible portions of our days.


Rachel Whiteread's exhibition featured a Memorial as well: the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, Austria. It was commissioned in 2000. The copies of unreadable books represent absence and loss, both of Jews lives, as well as of books burned by Nazists.

I couldn't find more information on this projects, but the description reported Whiteread saying that this work "functions both as private and public space".



It was a great weekend to be in DC and I promised myself to come back as soon as possible. I got inspired in many ways, but I only scratched the surface.

© 2017 Bea Spolidoro