Reflections

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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?

Luigi Pagliarulo

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23 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. The picture is astounding. You weren’t kidding with the whole detail I believe you were right as child in this moment of time you don’t clearly get to see the whole picture because your “blocked” from that, it’s not till you are of age and you see the sorrow in which these soldiers went thru. I give a great amount of respect to them and you to have chosen this work of art. This is something like that photographer lady we were talking about in class last Thursday of how she took pictures of families in the great depression. Art is another way of showing the past and it’s struggles. The woman in the picture might have represented or symbolized liberty like our status of liberty or something. However I have I have one question were there other drawing such as this one that the artist made? Great piece 🙂

  2. To me it looked like a woman in the service. If you take a closer look at her outfit it has the general outline and color of the uniforms the other men in the service are wearing. I loved everything this picture represents and the feelings it tugs from those whom lost a loved one in the Vietnam War. It is a very heat warming piece. The man seems to be reaching out for his friend, brother or possibly son that he has lost. When you look at him, you feel his pain that he wasn’t able to grow up with the person he is looking for.
    Another note on the woman, I feel she is trying to give comfort as she would’ve in the war. Back then most of the women were nurses and that was what they did.

  3. For lack of a better word, “Wow!” I love this piece. I am familiar with it and its name, Reflections. It is its true meaning that makes me recall an instance in my own life that has special meaning. I lost my uncle in the Vietnam War. This was something, perhaps one of the only things, that would bring my father, a man who in every sense of the word defines machismo, to a screeching halt, make him gather his words and thoughts, clear his throat, and on some occasions, even bring him to tears. When I first saw this art work, I could see my father as the man touching the Memorial Wall and my uncle reaching back to touch his hand from the other side. This is artwork with powerful meaning, and, sadly, it is a work that remains topical as we repeat war after war.

    To me, the woman represents how spouses and others probably felt about soldiers with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and their inability to fully connect with these soldiers in the way that fellow military personnel often can.

    The one 9/11 project that quickly comes to mind, and one that I find to be as impactful, is the community-based photo project:

    http://www.Hereisnewyork.org.

    I saw this exhibit in 2002 and it was powerful, just as Reflections. It was, for me, impactful, moving, and emotional.

  4. This piece is amazing. The amount of emotions it stirs up is rare in a single art piece. My favorite part is the soldiers. Their faces are hard, having seen the horrors of war, and yet they are reaching out to help the man with his grief. I think the artist wanted to show, through the memorial, that those who are gone are not lost, and that through our memories we can see them again. This piece is very powerful and blunt at the same time-it does not romanticize war, because the pain on the men’s faces is too real.

  5. The painter has done a great job. The details of the painting are amazing. I think all these soldiers are friends. The man dressed in white is the father of the soldier who has his hand raised close to the man’s hand and the rest of the soldiers are consoling him for his loss. The lady might be part of the army as well. She might be a doctor who got killed during the war.

  6. This piece is very touching. I can only imagine how this piece would speak to someone who had served in the Vietnam War (any any war at that). My interpretation of this piece is that the man is not touching hands with a friend, son, brother, etc. but a younger version of himself. Those beside him were his fellow comrades, who may have fell during the war. The woman in the picture may have been a friend or significant other who may have fell during the war as well. She may have possibly been a nurse, which was common for women during that time.

    I’m pretty sure I have seen a few pieces similar to this devoted to the 9/11 tragedy. I’m not sure what the name of those pieces were or where to find them but I know they do exist.

  7. This is a powerful painting depicting a national event that touched so many lives. The painting shows the grief and struggles so many individuals went through with the loss of friends and family members while including the feeling of a collective national loss. Paintings that lead to reflection and contemplation like this are important to a healing process following a war.

    It’s significant that the painting was done close to 15 years following the end of the Vietnam war. I think 9/11 will be memorialized in similar ways; but I think for it to be done properly, in a way that everyone can appreciate, more time has to pass.

  8. Wow this is a really amazing piece. It captures a lot of personal emotion and grief war brings. The woman might be his significant other who passed away during the war as well. She might be separated because she wasn’t out there with the men but doing something of that nature.

  9. Lee Teter did an amazing job with this painting. I think its a wonderful piece and has so much emotion with it that it’s nearly impossible to just look at it with out feeling overwhelmed. I think the women in the background was in service because she is in the reflection and not standing on the out side. Maybe she is there because she was the ones taking care of the soldiers? I think the man is grieving because of the loss of someone dear to him such as his son or brother. It cool to see the reflection because most likely the man in this photo doesn’t see it. When i look at this picture i know I am taken over by many different emotions and thoughts of this event.

  10. What an excellent choice–thank you for writing on this piece and asking such great questions about it. You bring up such a good point about the woman soldier (or nurse or widower). She does seem to be separate somehow, but integral to the meaning and composition.

  11. I’m thinking that this guy is remembering his fellow soldiers and the times that they served together. He could also be pondering what things might have been like if they had survived and he didn’t. As I get older I think about these what-if things more and more as I watch the people I went to school with do things that I have not done and some things that I will not be doing. I see those that I knew in my younger days looking older and a few of them passing away much too early. I see my parents growing older and wonder how much longer we have together. I am thinking that the woman off to the side is this mans wife standing solid by his side just like he has with the men in the refection.

  12. This is skillfully done. I love the way the names on the wall take on a life of their own as the eteral images that reach out to the viewer of the wall. Very powerful emotional piece! I think it would be appropriate to do this for the 911 tragedy as well. In this case, art is serving to evoke emotions and help us to remember the sacrifices of our nation’s soldiers. Very fitting tribute for Veteran’s Day.

  13. This is one of my favorite pieces. The emotion that you see in this picture is amazing. My fagorite part in this picture is the man touching the wall and the soldier is on the other side putting his hand up right against his. Great blog!

  14. Until you mentioned the women, i didnt even notice her. Is she just a reflection from behinf the man leaning on the wall or did she die in the war also? I also wonder what the soilders are feeling in the painting?

  15. Such power behind this piece. Knowing many veterans and having many good good friends in the service, this piece means a lot to me. I feel like I have seen it before but I also think I would have known for sure after seeing something like this again. I see this as the man leaning on the wall being apart of the same company or platoon as the reflections and reminiscing and remembering his fallen brothers. He looks to be wincing as if he is crying about the fact he is still alive and his buddies aren’t. Powerful is an understatement when describing the emotion behind this piece and what it stands for.

  16. I think this is a very inspiring and interesting artwork. I think the men are suppose to to be his friends they may have died in the war. The woman may be a woman that her met in the war and died or someone he left behind.

  17. This art sharp, vivid images with a high degree of color. But the intensity of the meaning will forever haunt me because it does not include the people of the other side. For there families where affected by the loss of them and many of those kids live here in america today. Just taking a look at the wall and the painting all together because it is important to remember why they lost there lives.

  18. This piece is very touching, it speaks by itself. As a I was playing close attention to it, I can see a lot of emotional pain. You can see that the men touching the wall might have lost someone loved or was a survivor. What it really got my attention was the woman standing on the left by herself. We can come with a main idea of what this picture really means, but it seems as I look closer the more detail I can see. It brings out a lot emotions. Amazing piece!!!

  19. The in this piece is truly amazing. I believe the reflections are his memories of his fellow soldiers who were killed at war as he looks as if he is reflecting on his experiences. The woman could be maybe his wife he maybe divorced after returning from war since he must’ve returned a different man. I do remember being very confused and not fully understanding the severity of 9/11 being only 10 years old at the time. I am sure there will be plenty of pieces that artists have and will draw for 9/11 that will be just as popular.

  20. Incredible doesn’t even seem like an adequate word to describe this piece; it is so incredibly touching and beautiful. The piece automatically created a story in my head whether or not it is the true meaning of the piece I immediately saw this as a father paying respect to his son. The true meaning however, is in the hands of any observer and their emotional connection to the painting.

  21. The solder reaching and touching the man’s hand is actually my uncle. Lee Teter gave our family 3 originals of this and is up at the Hall of Heroes in Laurens County.

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