Sculptor's NJ Encore will be lady for WWII
By Guy Sterling - Star Ledger Staff
If all had gone according to plan, ground for New Jersey's World War II memorial would have been broken today.
But the project is behind schedule, mostly because fundraising has yet to meet expectations. Nonetheless, organizers are moving ahead, and they have selected a sculptor well known in New Jersey art circles to crate the Trenton memorial's centerpiece.
After a nationwide competition, Thomas Jay Warren was chosen to create Lady Victory, a 12-foot-high bronze statue that will serve as the focal point of the memorial to be built in a park across from the Statehouse.
Warren statues are featured prominently in New Jersey's Korean War Memorial in Atlantic City and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel.
"He brings to these memorials a measure of humanity, dignity and dynamism that other memorials lack," said Ray Martyniuk, former spokesman for the state Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, who worked with Warren on the other two war projects.
Other works by Warren include a monument at Rutgers University commemorating college football's first game, a marble relief panel at the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware, and a bronze relief in Grovers Mill honoring the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.
A native of Mississippi who lived, taught and worked in New Jersey for 10 years, Warren 47, now works out of a studio in Oregon.
"I'm really excited about this new project, " he said when reached at his studio. "I was up against some very good people."
By the department's estimate, Lady Victory, carrying a wreath in one hand and a sword in the other, should cost about $150,000.
The cost of the entire project was estimated at $4.7 million when it was proposed more than a year ago. But that figure has risen to $6 million, said Gary Englert, director of the department's Division of Veterans Services.
The state has appropriated $2 million for the project, while the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has pledged $1 million. The Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs needs to raise an equal amount in private donations if the project is to be completed, Englert added.
Englert said he was not concerned about the pace of the fundraising efforts, because the department was legally cleared only this past spring to begin soliciting money.
The original plan had been to dedicated the monument Memorial Day 2006, a goal that will not be met. Ground cannot be broken until all the funds are in hand, said Englert. But work can begin on parts of the memorial, such as the Lady Victory statue.
Warren said it will take him a year to finish the statue once a final version of the image is approved, all the contracts are signed and a foundry is picked to cast the figure. Approval of the image by the New Jersey World War II Memorial Commission is anticipated next month.
Design and construction of the memorial are being overseen by the World War II commission, which was appointed by Gov. James E. McGreevey and operates under the auspices of the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs.
McGreevey's father, Jack is a World War II veteran who serves as chairman of the 16-member group. He referred all questions about the memorial to Englert.
Warren said the commission has asked him to make a few minor alterations, such as making the leaves of the wreath more prominent. He described Lady Victory as the kind of allegorical statue that was once common but isn't much in demand anymore.
"It was a challenge to take such a traditional image and give it a contemporary look," Warren added.
He said it was his idea to add a sense of power to the image by having his Lady Victory striding forward while raising the wreath - a symbol of victory - in her right hand, as though she were presenting it to the people of New Jersey. In her left hand is a sword.
Sculptors will also compete to create two other features of the memorial - a battlefield marker and bas relief depictions of the history of World War II.
Englert said it is important to get the project on track so that as many surviving World War II veterans as possible will be able to see the memorial. The department estimates there are between 120,000 and 170,000 World War II veterans in New Jersey.
Back to News Archive