The Central Component of the World War I Memorial is a 58.5-foot Bronze Sculptural Wall Entitled “A Soldier’s Journey.”
The sculpture depicts a series of scenes based on the myth of “the hero’s journey,” in which a recurring figure of an American soldier embarks on a quest, wins victory in an epic struggle, and comes home changed by his passage through peril. The soldier also represents, on a second level, the American experience of World War I.
The sculpture is the work of Sabin Howard, who together with architect Joseph Weishaar won the competition to redesign Pershing Park as a national World War I memorial. Howard began by viewing thousands of photographs of the war. He then brought actors and models into his studio, where he posed them in scenes inspired by his research. Rather than putting them into static, artificial poses, he gave them stage directions to move through a scene, and then captured the motion in more than 12,000 photos.
Howard then selected and assembled images into a series of tableaus. As Howard took new photos and revised the images, the story evolved. The process culminated in a six-foot-long scale model or “maquette” of the proposed sculpture.
Once the maquette was approved, Howard re-shot every figure in a rig holding 160 high-speed digital cameras. Working with Pangolin Editions foundry and Steve Russell Studios, Howard generated 3-D computer images from the terabytes of digital data. Pangolin then created full-scale polyurethane versions of the images, which formed the armatures for the sculpture. This process, which took about 15 months to complete, would have taken six years using traditional methods.
Howard then applied clay to the armatures and began sculpting the figures. As each of four sections is completed, it is cast in bronze. When all four sections have been cast, they will be re-assembled and shipped here for installation.
The temporary installation at the World War I Memorial features the artistic process from initial sketch, to clay sculpture, to finished bronze.
Once Completed and Installed in 2024, “A Soldier’s Journey” Will be the Largest Freestanding High-Relief Bronze in the Western Hemisphere.