Art can be defined as the product of an individual’s imagination or creativity, such as thoughts, expressions, and even emotions or sentiments. This implies that art is an important part of society and is valuable to our everyday lives. Public art has found a way to improve our communities by making them more appealing by giving them life. Public art can be used as a tribute to one or more people, convey the emotions and opinions of that person, and even spread messages to the community. One public art that has made a big impact is ‘Liberty Enlightening the World‘ (1865), more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty. It was first shown as proof of friendship between France and the USA but grew to symbolize much more than that (“Statue of Liberty National Monument (U.s. National Park Service)”). Today it has grown to be recognized as a symbol of freedom and equality not just for Americans but for everyone. In this regard, this paper seeks to examine and evaluate why the Statue of Liberty is important as public art and whether it achieved its original intention.
The Statue of Liberty, also known as Liberty Enlightening the World, was built in 1885 (Statue of Liberty: Stamps and Postmarks). The art is a portrait of a woman whose height without the pedestal is 151 feet, where she stands a full 305 feet tall and weighs 225 tons (Hurtig). Lady Liberty is more than just a monument, considering that each of her many features, including her, raised foot, a lit torch, and broken chains at her feet, contribute to the idea that everyone entering the United States will experience freedom and enlightenment. Although she represents liberation and illumination, many people soon realize nothing is ever certain. The Statue of Liberty was first conceived as a straightforward concept by Edouard Rene de Laboulaye (Bhargava and Stolz). The French historian Edouard de Laboulaye recommended and advised France to create a statue or public art that would be offered to the United States in honor of its success in a sustainable democracy around 1865 when the American Civil War was coming to an end. The relationship between France and the United States and the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence were important to Edouard (Maguth et al.).
Although this was simply an idea in Edouard’s head, it was realized by sculptor Frederic. Aguste Bartholdi. With the assistance of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Bartholdi created the enormous sculpture to represent both his mother and a Roman goddess (DeGroff 261). The United States was going through a severe economic downturn at the time, and many changes, like new immigrants arriving, were about to change that. The Statue of Liberty symbolized freedom to the almost 14 million immigrants who entered New York to immigrate to the United States (Alaimo).
The Statue of Liberty is a massive statue on Liberty Island in Upper New York Cove in the United States. The French historian, Edouard de Laboulaye, chose Bedloe’s Island to be the statue’s location when he visited the place. Even though it was little, every ship entering New York Harbor could see it. He chose this location because he considered it to be the “Gateway to America (Maguth et al.). “At the same time, in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty rises tall near Ellis Island, which is a magnet for immigration. Nevertheless, the Statue of Liberty has later designated a national monument in 1924 because America was growing and giving what was commonly referred to as the American Dream at the time; the Statue of Liberty is a reflection of the societal changes that were taking on at this time. People immigrated to the US from various nations to escape oppression, poverty, war, and religious persecution and pursue their American ambitions (Hurtig). The immigrants would see the imposing structure at
Ellis Island after their exhausting voyage across the ocean. The traditional interpretation of Bartholdi’s message is that he wanted the statue to symbolize hope, courage, and freedom for everyone who enters the United States. France believed in their connection with America and wanted people to view the statue as a new beginning in life, which is why it was vital to build the Statue of Liberty (Bhargava and Stolz). Lady Liberty’s foot is raised to show that she is constantly moving is one of the many ways Bartholdi used the design to convey his beliefs. In order to bring light to New York and foreigners visiting the country, he designed the torch to be burned both throughout the day and night. Additionally, the broken chain at her feet was specifically created to symbolize the elimination of slavery and independence. The Statue of Liberty’s symbolic meaning prompted the numerous immigrants who entered the United States to believe they would be welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, that was untrue; in 1924, the United States barred millions of immigrants based on their race, depriving them of the opportunity to experience freedom and enlightenment (DeGroff, 262).
The Statue of Liberty is often visited by many people who appreciate what it represents. On Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is a popular tourist attraction. After the installation, the statue was shown to the United States by the French people in recognition of the sympathy that the two countries both shared during the Revolution. It also stands for American democracy and freedom. The statue represents justice and liberty in the form of a lady holding a torch and a hand tablet with the words “July 4, 1776” engraved on it (Bhargava and Stolz). Additionally, the statue’s broken chain, which is close to its feet, stands for the end of the British authorities over the United States and the harsh government regulations. This statue, which has played multiple major roles in American history and whose significance has evolved over time, as well as what it means to immigrants and other groups, results to be the most recognizable emblem of the United States (Vettel-Becker).
Diverse people have different interpretations of the Statue of Liberty, and how its significance has continuously evolved over time (Zerilli 178). The statue’s gained significance as a memorial to the elimination of American slavery after the end of the Civil War came into focus. This is when people all embraced a universal idea of liberty and freedom made possible by the development of the political system under the official government. The Statue of Liberty served as a celebration of America’s victory in the American Revolution and the abolition of slavery and a symbol of democracy and the values and ideals of the Enlightenment (Hurtig).
Over the years, the Statue of Liberty has greatly impacted American politics and economics. Even though the statue stands for numerous political and social values, its sponsors have changed throughout time. The statue has appeared in a wide range of media, such as comic books, music, movies, posters, photographs, publications, and many other items (DeGroff 263). Due to the numerous commercial uses of the Statue of Liberty’s image in the past, Bartholdi started to license the picture for use in commercials and advertisements. However, the picture was recruited to promote different goods, such as clothing, cigarettes, lighters, and more. One issue was that since the statue stood for so many different things to different individuals, money was required to lift it (Maguth et al.). People were willing to support the monument’s continuation by purchasing any item portraying liberty.
It served as more than just a memorial to the population; it also stood for the American dream they were determined not to let perish. However, when enough money was saved or made for a statue, people sent their tax money, which truly helped personalize the statue’s meaning. As though each person owned a portion of the statue, it was used (Zerilli 171). The statue helped maintain the flow of the American economy by encouraging people to buy and sell goods. This will help the economy grow, jobs are created, and the dream will be realized. Additionally, he danced on the Statue of Liberty to demonstrate that racism still exists even though the statue stands for liberty and emancipation from racism (Vettel-Becker). The statue and the song remind people to steer clear of stereotyping people of color and respect them for who they are and what they do, regardless of their occupation. The definition of the statue could be interpreted in another way in the 1900s. This message took on a very strong meaning as a lighthouse for immigrants seeking a boost in economic and social support and liberation from the oppression of their home nation (Alaimo). The states have the authority to exclude immigrants from potential state departments and set them aside to recruit workers.
More than a simple statue, the Statue of Liberty serves many purposes as a public art. The Statue of Liberty’s reputation as a well-known national landmark that is held by a democratic government account for its standing in American society. It is also associated with a variety of opposing groups that have employed the statute to advance their own specific political agendas. Nevertheless, the statue’s powerful interpretations, whether they stand for the American Dream, freedom, the abolition of slavery, a particular person, or the overthrow of British rule, reveal changes in the American social and political system over time. It will always serve as a reminder that our current state of freedom was not always the case it is today and that many people had to battle for it. It is also worth pointing out that although the Statue of Liberty was designed to welcome anyone visiting the United States with freedom and knowledge, it fell short of its goal.
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