The project was to create a world class public Monument to General Vang Pao (GVP) who was commander for United States CIA covert operations in Laos during the Vietnam War. GVP lead the Hmong to rescue downed American pilots, provide intelligence and disrupt the flow of weapons and supplies into Vietnam. After the War and once resettled in America, the General dedicated the rest of his long life to work on behalf of the Hmong.
My clients knew they wanted a full-figure bronze portrait of GVP, but were open to my designing the project and whatever other components I felt were needed. I drew sketches and proposed an over life size portrait (10ft high) installed on a 6ft high two tiered granite base. However, I also included the installation of three 4ft by 4ft bronze relief panels on the granite base that would tell GVP's amazing life story. I wanted to include a fourth relief panel on the back of the pedestal which would give information about the heroic Hmong people and their continuing persecution in Laos for having aided the U.S. during the Vietnam War. However my client suggested that we instead include a large etched granite wall to tell this important and heart wrenching story--similar to the etched granite wall in a National Monument I had sculpted. This was a wonderful addition to the Monument and I named it "The Cost of Freedom". I designed a 30ft by 20ft oval shaped concrete slab for the installation of the Monument in a lovely grassy and tree filled location in Stockton, California.
It was a wonderful experience working with my client, Dr. Cheuyengther Xiong, and the GVP Monument Committee. They were very open minded to my suggestions and trusting of the process. I kept them informed each step of the way and they visited my sculpture studio and the bronze foundry several times during our journey together. My husband and I have worked with a great team of subcontractors on several of my past Monument projects and we were able to coordinate all aspects of this project with them. This included the 17,000 pound solid granite base, the huge etched granite wall, casting of the monumental bronze portrait and three relief panels, as well as, coordinating the site contractor for creation of the footings and concrete slab, and working with the subcontractors for installation of all the different components.
I always do a tremendous amount of research before I begin working on a monument project, and after I had read about GVP I had a very vivid and powerful dream in which the General held out his right hand and said to his people, 'Come with me to a free land.' I awoke with tears in my eyes and phoned my client, Dr. Xiong, to share my dream. It is our prayer that this historic Monument will help heal the wounds of the past and inspire the viewer's mind forward into the opportunities of this 'free land'.
The Making of the GVP Monument
Steps to Creating a Monument
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Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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