Sometimes the most eloquent public art is the most simple. It is work that speaks its piece with a plain dignity that cuts through the rhetoric of justification and excuse and manages to go straight to the heart of experience. Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a famous case in point. Names carved in stone — it is hard to imagine anything simpler than that. Yet, has anyone who has visited this site not been moved by it?
A work of similar power has been touring the United States and will be in Indianapolis on Saturday, Sept. 11. The work is untitled and, as far as we can tell, the artist(s) is unknown. The flyer announcing this work refers to it as “900+ Pairs Combat Boots Display.” That’s because the work consists of a pair of combat boots for every soldier who has been killed in action in Iraq. Each pair of boots bears a soldier’s name. In a move as inspired as it is poetic, the boots will be assembled at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Then the boots will be moved to the Wheeler Arts Community building where they will be on display Sept. 12-13 along with a multimedia exhibition on the Iraq War called Eyes Wide Open: Beyond Fear — Towards Hope. The exhibition at the Wheeler is open Sept. 11 from 1-8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 12 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Monday, Sept. 13 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Set aside time on Saturday to experience this piece for yourself — then be sure you are registered to vote.