Last year we were gifted a new bronze sculpture by Peter Walker, entitled Pity of War. You can find this striking image near the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is a maquette for a much larger sculpture that is yet to be cast.
Peter Walker is a British artist who works in many different media including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, light and sound installations, etc. His works can be found in cities throughout the United Kingdom and around the world. LuxMuralis, e.g. one of his light and sound installations was at the Cathedral of Saint Paul last December.
Peter Walker is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. He is artist-in-Residence at Lichfield Cathedral. Pity of War was conceived to join the memorials for different causes scattered among some 25,000 trees in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in Great Britain.
Pity of War is intended to honor the millions of nameless and voiceless and forgotten victims of war and human atrocities whose lives were upended against their will. The sculpture honors those bereaved by loss of loved ones, of their home or property; those who were forced to flea and now live in refugee camps or were forced to move to lands other than their own where they are more or less welcome; those who are suffering from post-traumatic distress and lifelong disabilities.
Pity of War depicts the head of a young child. Her eyes are strikingly bound and her mouth is shown shockingly silenced by abstraction and even by the removal of certain features such as her mouth and ears. Without words the image commands attention and draws the beholder into the narrative.
In Peter’s words, Pity of War is “not only about the past, but about the present and the future. It is both a commemoration and a challenge.” Since we received Pity of War I have been able to spend time with it. The sculpture really speaks to me. It has given me solace as I have come to it with a heavy heart wondering if we will ever get it right. Sitting with the sculpture I have pondered our broken world and our apparent inability to stop ourselves from adding on to the brokenness time after time.
And though it was conceived to commemorate victims of war I started to rename the sculpture: Pity of Violence; Pity of Abuse; Pity of Intolerance; Pity of Bigotry; Pity of White Supremacy; Pity of Racism.
I welcome Peter’s words that this sculpture is not only a memorial to past victims. It is also, and maybe even more importantly a challenge to all of us today; a challenge to be better; a challenge to work for change; a challenge to end all wars, violence, abuse, bigotry, supremacy and racism.
I am very grateful to add this sculpture to our art collection here at The Basilica of Saint Mary during these times filled with challenge and hope. I only wish it was much larger so that it might speak even more loudly to even more people.
When you visit The Basilica next, please visit Pity of War and let this sculpture speak to you. It is my hope that it will help us in our mission to change hearts and promote the values of equity, diversity and inclusivity.