Memory Wall: My Father at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
24”x18” oil on linen 2011
At the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last October on my birthday, I was able to visit the painting I first remember: Rembrandt's iconic group portrait The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers Guild. As a six year old, I stood before the painting and recognized it as the same image on the Dutch Masters' cigar box, my father's go-to brand. The connection was phenomenal; I was hooked.
My dad had just finished his tour in the Vietnam War, where he had been serving as a JAG officer in the United States Marine Corps, and we were traveling around Europe. To this day, I recall most everything about that European family reunion. A lifelong love of Rembrandt ensued.
Rembrandt's intellect and courage allowed him to move beyond a search for a mere likeness. Instead, Rembrandt pushed deep into the work to seek the inner selves of his sitters.
I thank my father for introducing me to Rembrandt. As an homage to that day and to many years of love and friendship, I painted my father as I remember him, both in the past and the present. In Memory Wall: My Father at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I gather these memories to paint a portrait of accumulation. Each mark and each layer on the painting echoes a moment or conversation shared.
Today, on the 236th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps, I am honored to post my painting of my dad in uniform.
Peter Clothier has written on this painting:
Particularly moving to this one viewer is "Memory Wall: My Father at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial" ... a portrait of the artist's father in U.S. Marine dress uniform. The face is seen in three-quarters profile, pale and stern, lips full, eyes gazing upward, as if respectfully, toward an unseen flag or deity. The uniform, complete with medals, speaks loudly of his pride and service. The portrait speaks of duty, unwavering loyalty, discipline. The man is tough. And yet... we see him through the eyes of a son, respectful, yet aware of the vulnerabilities, the softer side of real humanity that lurks behind the outward show of strength. We are reminded, as men, of our own experience with fathers--giants for us as little children; imposing, distant, to be feared for their infinitely superior strength and wisdom. We may come to resent the discipline they impose on us, but accept it grudgingly because, like God, our father can't be wrong. As we grow, however, if we're fortunate and strong ourselves--if that father has managed to share his strength with us--we come to see the uncertainty, the self-questioning, the doubts and fears that assail even the toughest of men, and to recognize the deep bond of love between us.
USMC Billboard, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2011
photo by Gregg Chadwick
I am proud of my father's career in the USMC and thankful for the opportunity I have had to meet Marines across the globe. Today I greet all Marines with a fervent, "Happy Marine Corps Birthday!"
Peter Clothier on Theater of Memory
236 years of Semper Fi