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I was around 10 years old when I first saw this painting and it left quite an impression on me. I was too young to understand the complexity of the emotions in this painting. But as an adult, I can appreciate it at a different level. I recently saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in person in Washington DC this past summer and it brought me back to the first time that I saw it in a print store at our local mall. I think this painting left an impression on me well before I could understand it because of the great loss the country had experienced at that time. This was not something that I could conceive as a child, it was not something our generation had experienced yet.
There is a lot of room for interpretation in this painting. The loss of this war was great and this was shown in the bold black wall with the engraved names which takes up most of the picture. I feel the burden and grief that the man feels as he touches the wall, which is flat and shiny, giving the feeling that it is cold and empty. However, it contains the names of more than 60,000 soldiers that were killed or lost in the Vietnam War. As the man leans on the large wall the thoughts running through his head seem to be represented by the reflections of soldiers in the wall. The emotion on the other side of the wall is as apparent as the grieving man’s emotion, because of the soft lines and light shadows, it shows sadness and vulnerability in contrast with the overwhelming black wall, which represents the strength of the war and the loss the country had endured. The reflections of the soldiers seem to be trying to console the grieving man as one soldier lifts his hand up to touch the grieving mans hand. I can’t help but wonder who the woman is in the reflection. She is separated from the rest of the reflections and is standing alone. This man could be a fellow soldier who survived and feels guilty for still being alive. Or it could be the father or brother of one of the soldiers, mourning for their loved one that they never got to say good bye to.
Lee Teter was the artist of this painting. He was asked to create it by a group of Vietnam Veteran’s, some of whom are actually depicted in this piece. They chose Teter because of his attention to detail and you can even see some of the soldiers names in their exact position as they were on the wall. Lee does not profit from the sales of this prints. The millions of dollars sold over the years profit the Veteran’s and their families.
A link to the artists biography.
- Who is the woman in the picture and why do you think she is off to the side?
- What do you feel when you see the picture?
- Do you think there will be one comparable piece that is inspired by the 9/11 tragedy? Lee Teter’s Reflections was the most collected print in the 20th Century. Have you seen something as significant to honor those lost on 9/11?