I took a country drive today, to photograph one of my favorite local portraits. Although it is in the nearby town of Vandalia Illinois, only a 20 minute drive from home, it is of national significance.
In the 1920’s the Daughters of the American Revolution spearheaded and raised the money for a large project to highlight the bravery of the Pioneer woman. Across the terrain of early America the pioneer mother, traveling by foot and covered wagon, gathered her children round about her skirts, and settled this big land, along side her hardworking man.
There are 12, ten foot tall statues of the Madonna of the Trail which were designed by Arlene B. Nichols Moss, and sculpted by August Leimbach, a sculptor from St. Louis. They were cast in algonite stone (a casting material which incorporates granite as an aggregate and has a nice rosy hue to it). They were placed along the National Old Trails Highway from Bethesda, Maryland to Upland, California. This highway was also known as the Cumberland Road.
Personally, I like this statue for its strength of form. Nothing is weak or half-hearted. Each element whether the woman’s bonnet, or the hand of the child clutching its mothers skirts, are thick, and strong. The side view of the skirt extended with the woman’s bold stride, creates a triangular shape which is very grounding.
Having been designed in the 192o’s it certainly bears the formal trends of an Art Deco stylization. For me personally both this formal strength and the message of bravery of the pioneer traveler, speaks anew to our own time of current crisis in America, and indeed across the globe. It takes a special courage again to maintain a home and to raise a family well, with so many jobs being lost across the land.
The Madonna of the Trail speaks to my own heart about what is truly essential to live the good life.
Read more about the Madonna of the Trail at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Trail