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Littlefield Fountain and Mlk Statue at Ut Analysis

By eliselebourg Mar 31, 2010 1012 Words
While the Littlefield Memorial Fountain and the statue of Martin Luther King Jr.have both become the focal point of their respective locations, the impression they each leave on their viewers differs greatly. The Littlefield Fountain offers a symbolic experience, leaving the viewers deciphering the hidden meanings behind the mythological creatures and Latin inscriptions. However, the King statue takes a more literal, contemporary approach, enticing its admirers to reflect on the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement. The techniques employed by both of the sculptures give better insight as to why the observer has different experiences when reflecting upon each work. Martin Luther King Jr. Statue

The Martin Luther King Jr. statue is placed in the center of the EastMall, on the direct axis that crosses through campus. The placement of the statue does not seem to be directly relatable to the building it is next to, The Jackson School of Geosciences, but it does fit the scholarly setting in general. More importantly, this statue fits in with the city; it is a representation of political stances and free speech. Physically speaking, the statue could be uprooted and moved to another part of campus, but it would take away from its central location it currently has, since it is the main attraction in the East Mall. The King statue is a larger than life representation that looks different from the back and the front. The base of the statue has four panels, each with a different scene depicted on them. This makes the viewer motivated to walk around to each side and look at the panels. It is difficult to make a personal connection to this work because it is a lot higher than the viewer’s line of sight. It makes the viewer feel underneath the statue and not at eye level. However, the statue’s lifelike quality and naturalistic appeal provide a more personal experience. Appropriately named, the Martin Luther King Jr. statue is a representation of civil rights activist Martin Luther King. While on the surface, the statue would seem to be only a representation of one man; the panels on the base suggest that this statue pertains to all of those affected during the civil rights movement. The first of the four low-relief panels shows King in jail. This is most likely a representation of the time he spent in Birmingham and wrote his letters. The inscription “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed” gives the viewer an insight to King’s beliefs. The second and fourth panels of a mother and child in a church and a group of protestors, respectively, represent those who believed in the civil rights movement and peaceful protest. The third panel, a picture of Washington with the words “I have a dream” and smaller portraits of Gandhi and Nobel show one of King’s most famous moments; him delivering a speech at the Washington monument. The portraits of Gandhi and Nobel represent nonviolent protest and intellectual capacity. As a whole, the panels show that this statue is not dedicated to only King, but to the civil rights movement itself. Littlefield Memorial Fountain

The fountain is gargantuan; the figures are larger than life and very intimidating. Though its size shows its grandeur, it also robs the viewer of being in the same space as the monument. The sculpture itself is fairly symmetricaland the theme can be understood by looking at only one side. The only difference between each of the sides is the attire on each of the men. Unlike the statue of Martin Luther King, the fountain is not a literal representation, but a symbolic one. The figure of Columbia, a commonly used symbol of the United States, stands on top of a ship with the figure of an eagle on the mast. The men of either side of her are wearing military gear common during the 1930’s. This part of the fountain is a representation of the patriotism in America; the men rowing Columbia forward in this ship show that the militarypushes America along. After looking at this sculpture for a while, one can come to the conclusion that the sculptor wanted to incorporate traditional elements in fountains to convey a modern message. The hippocampus figures are a good example of this, since they are common in ancientfountain designs. The inscriptions, however, are what drive this theme of patriotism home. The first inscription, “ O happy death that a man owes to nature but endures for country above else,” is a clear connection to the military figures on the ship. Thesecond inscription, “ Short is the life given us by nature but the memory of a life nobly surrendered is everlasting,” again reinforces the idea that nobility and sacrifice are worth remembering. In contrast with the Martin Luther King statue, the figures in this sculpture are idealized rather than naturalistic. The bodies of the two men on the ship are much like those of a Greek statue, with perfect proportion and muscle tone. Columbia is dressed in flowing robes with greatly exaggerated drapery, as if she was in motion. Generally speaking, the statue seems to create motion, as the drapery suggests, as well as tension created by the men restraining the hippocampi. It is now clear that each work reflects a different style of art and a different experience for those who see it. The MLK statue directly reflects Martin Luther King in the most naturalistic form possible, which lets the observers think not about the statue itself, but the man behind the statue and his accomplishments. The Littlefield Fountain’s creator chose a more symbolic approach, which would have been greatly appreciated in 1933 in the midst of multiple wars. Today, the fountain serves as both a memorial and a stamp of history. While both of these works oppose each other in style and execution, it is clear that both belong on the UT campus and give those who see them everyday a profound experience.

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