|EARLY INSPIRATION FOR
THE ARTIST'S PATH
In the fall of 1980 I was studying theater at the University of Texas in Austin.
One day when I had a bit of time I wandered into the art building. In the center
of a spacious, starkly white room was a quite large plaster copy of an ancient
roman sculpture which is itself a copy in marble of an early Hellenistic piece
from 220-230 B.C. thought to be done in bronze and lost in time and space. Of
course I did not know all this then. At first I thought it was a rather smooth,
white nude of a man reclining; but I found myself drawn to something about it.
It was early afternoon and I was quite alone in this vast space. About 15’ from
the piece was a bench. Sitting I studied the figure. Here was a man, a warrior
mortally wounded, his sword dropped at his side as he struggles to rise
against the pain of the fatal wound in his side. I sat motionless taking in every
detail until a moment came when I imagined that I could see movement—the
right hand pressing down for support, the left leg drawing up to gain a footing
on the shield on which he has collapsed, his face a mask of concentration and
refusal to give in to the pain, the knowledge of imminent death.
The illusion was so real I rose from the bench feeling a strange desire to reach
out and help him. Tears slipped down my face and more so when I finally saw
the title of the piece, A Dying Gaul. He would never rise. But the artist had
caught him forever on the razor edge countless soldiers over eons have found
themselves—between death and the urge to heed the call of duty and honor.
Never again would I listen to a report of bombs exploding and statistics of the
wounded and the dead as if such events were not a part of my world. They
may wear Kevlar and desert fatigues, drive humvees instead of walk or ride
horses, but they are the Dying Gaul who in his nudity seems to stand for every
man who has walked a battlefield, whether in ancient Greece, on the steppes
of the vast plains of Russia, the frozen forests of Europe, the rolling depths of
oceans and the vastness of the skies, the jungles of Vietnam or the desolate
wastes and urban horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is my husband, my son, my brother, my father, my friend and now my
sister. I must rise and give succor and seek ways to ensure not only that he
comes home to me, but that I build a world in which she never has to leave.
Gail Mangham January 2010
To build a better world we must have a world to build.
Unless we act --either out of love of self or of all living things--
to change the path we are on, there will be no world to better.