Communication, Politics and Art in D.C.

By Rose Warren

The 555 foot tall Washington Monument. The 223 year old White House. The $3 million dollar Lincoln Memorial. None am I as excited for as Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial.

I’ve only been at Emerson for one semester, but it has already provided me so much. Professor Cher Knight has already taught me so much about art history and concept inIntroduction to Visual Arts. Organizations like CPLA have offered unique experiences and an outlet to apply my education. I am extremely excited to utilize both of these assets on the CPLA trip to Washington D.C.

As the Intro to Art textbook Living with Art outlines, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “has served to bring a community together.” Unlike the other massive monuments in the U.S. National Mall, the Vietnam Memorial is subdued and humble. Lin was asked to make an objective place to commemorate those lost during the controversial war. Whether or not this is an unbiased piece of art is debatable, but either way this sculpture is a place of reflection and remembrance. I am very excited to reinforce the lesson when in the presence of the piece. Learning about the politics surrounding the creation and reception of the monument is also vital to understanding it. Citizens were upset because a young college student, who also happened to be Asian, was chosen to create the memorial. The claimed non-objectivity has been in question since Lin commented: “I imagined a taking a knife and cutting into the earth…the grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in the earth with a polished, mirrored surface.” Her description can be understood simply as a design influence, or as a commentary on how governments deal with war and its aftermath. This brings into question the motivation of Lin’s art.

When I arrive at the memorial it will be very interesting to see how all the information I have been taught on the subject will influence my reaction to it. I am also excited to see the reactions of others. Being able to enhance one aspect of learning with an opportunity from another is amazing and something I am so grateful to be able to experience.

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Iceland Through A Lithuanian’s Eyes

By Demi Vitkute

I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to go to Iceland with CPLA. Iceland is the most fascinating country I’ve ever visited, and from stunning, untouched nature to extremely intelligent and humble people, it surprised me in many ways. I always considered Lithuania small with a population of only three million people, but Iceland’s population is only 320 thousand, and 200 thousand of those people live in and around the capital city of Reykjavik. The country’s size is disproportionally large given its small population. The island is 103,000 square kilometers, or 40,000 square miles. It’s close to a quarter larger than Ireland, about the size of the state of Ohio.

We visited a professor at the University of Iceland, who upon learning that I was Lithuanian asked, “Do you remember that Iceland was the first country to recognize Lithuania’s independence?” Iceland did so on February 11, 1991. He explained that other countries at the time said that no one would remember this event, but Iceland only cared that Lithuania remembered. And we do. “Small countries stand up for each other,” said the professor.

We also had a chance to meet Mr. Hedinn, a policy analyst at the Iceland Prime Minister’s office who previously spent five years working on mental health for the World Health Organization. His book is currently a bestseller in Iceland, and he’s planning on translating and publishing it in many different languages and countries. Rarely do you meet people who can be called role models, and who are so inspiring that you want to be them. Without a doubt, Mr. Hedinn is one of those people. We discussed with him a variety of topics ranging from philosophy to gay rights, and made a note to ourselves to pick up some Marcus Aurelius books, since Hedinn kept on referencing them.

I asked Mr. Hedinn what countries, in his opinion, had the worst conditions regarding mental health institutions. He said Albania and Lithuania. It wasn’t easy hearing this about my native country, but it was eye opening.

Between our meetings and visits, the group was able to explore the country independently. We went on an eight and a half hour excursion to the Golden Circle and saw the geysers, waterfalls, mountains, and glaciers. Every time I look at the photo I took of the Gullfoss Waterfall, it reminds me what it felt like to stand at the edge of the earth.