Julie and Omri Rotblatt-Amrany and their Fine Art Studio were commissioned in 1999 as artists to design and create a Veterans Memorial Park for Munster, Indiana, USA. The 6 ½ acre park, dedicated June 1, 2003, includes five memorial sites to the major wars of the twentieth century: the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. The Munster Veterans Park is an important work, geared towards national interest, sponsored by a community group of Northwest Indiana private citizens and veterans, headed by the Community Hospital of Munster, Indiana.
The Munster War Memorial addresses the wars in a narrative and symbolic manner. A visitor approaches the individual sites by way of a history trail, confronting each war on its own while relating to the overall site. The walk presents undulating changes in the landscape similar to the geography of the wars. Each site is made up of life-sized bronze statues and bas-reliefs, set amidst large-scale granite shapes, rubble and stones, and actual war-time artifacts, sections of aircraft, weapons, and more, collected by the Northwest Indiana Committee.
Commencing in the summer of 1999, Julie and Omri engaged in a series of ‘sharing meetings’ with the citizens’ committee and veterans to hear their poignant war memories. The challenge of the Amranys, as artists, was to translate the immensity of the veterans’ experiences to a particular artistic expression and to corroborate their stories.
To accomplish this undertaking, the artists engaged an interdisciplinary team including adjunct sculptors from the Studio, landscape designer Cinda Berry (Evanston, IL), architect Fred Kaplan (Deerfield, IL), and writer and researcher Kathleen Van Ella (Lake Forest, IL).
Over the course of a year, concepts for the memorial sites were ardently deliberated back and forth between the artists and the community representatives. “Are the subjects touched with your truth?” Omri, who was responsible for the designs of the First, Second, Korean, and Desert Storm Wars, tested his images with the Indiana vets. “We will not do a heroic or propaganda approach to the wars, but instead express the suffering reality of life for the soldier in the field.”
Artistically, Julie and Omri were true to their individual and shared vision. The war sites are presented in realism intertwined with symbolic abstractions, montage art, some minimal approaches, and the use of recycled elements or found objects in art. The landscape, according to Omri, is based on “the knowledge of the Fractal—the invisible element which is about repetition into infinity.”
Julie, who was responsible for the Vietnam War design and the final two vignettes in the Park, says her desire is “…to educate the public, and especially the younger generation, about the horrors of war. The Park is about honor and memory,” she concludes, “but also about how we hope to evolve as a species to break the cycle of war.”
Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany