Guest Blogger: Mari
In Pershing Park, located at the
intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, I found the sculpture of a large eagle landing on the world. The physically imposing piece interested me because unlike many of the other sculptures I saw that day it was full of movement and emotion.
From later research I learned that the bronze sculpture is meant to symbolize freedom and was created by Lorenzo Ghiglieri in 1980 and dedicated in 1982. A gift from the National Wildlife Federation and Brian Bex of the American Communications Network to President Ronald Reagan, it was produced to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the eagle becoming America’s official symbol. The inscription on the Dakota mahogany granite base, matching the material of the nearby General John J. Pershing memorial, exemplifies the importance of freedom of mind and soul claiming that “individuality is the basis of every value” and that “freedom is the right to one’s soul.”
Ghiglieri portrays the eagle in flight, mouth open in a screech, with talons thrusting forward to grab and settle on the globe. To me, the Bex Eagle is a clear piece of Cold War propaganda designed to inspire pride in America’s friends and fear in her foes. The pose appears to assert American dominance in the Cold War world of the 1980’s. The eagle’s size, combined with its movement, sends a daunting message of America’s self determined role as a world liberator. Ghiglieri conveys this role and America’s sense of superiority by depicting the eagle about to grasp the globe; the piece states that America’s power allows her to control the world around her and bend it to her will. Not only does the physicality of the work create a sense of fluid movement, but it also successfully communicates American authority.
To balance the intimidation of America’s symbol, the inscription below the Bex Eagle assures viewers that while America does have tremendous power, it will only ever be used to spread individual freedom and give each human the right to possess their own soul. In the Cold War, America spoke softly and diplomatically, but wielded a big stick in the form of its military and wealth. This propaganda piece perfectly embodies how America viewed itself in this turbulent time.