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Object Lab: Monument Maquettes

By Object Lab, Uncategorized, University Faculty No Comments

Students in courses, Sculpture as Space and Themes in Contemporary Sculpture at Auburn University, led by Associate Professor Kristen Tordella-Williams, researched and proposed contemporary monuments in response to the exhibition Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French. The students researched, proposed, and built maquettes of future monuments that fill in historical gaps and celebrate marginalized communities and spaces.

August 3, 2023

Chris Barraza, “Into Space”

Chris Barraza, “Into Space”

By Monument Maquettes No Comments

“Into Space” is a monument to celebrate the unrecognized manpower that contributed to spaceflight. It is an effort to unite communities across state lines, ethnicities, and classes –particularly uniting the peoples of southern New Mexico to those of Huntsville, Alabama.

Its form takes inspiration from the exhaust plume left behind after the Saturn V rocket left the ground, which launched the Apollo 11 space shuttle in its voyage to the moon. Into Space also takes inspiration from the landscape of southern New Mexico, referencing the rocky canyons, the white gypsum sand of White Sands National park, and the organic shape of sand blown upward in an explosive fashion.

The intention of the monument is to bring the landscape of New Mexico to Huntsville, in which viewers can be enveloped. It should serve as a form of manufactured environmental art. The sculpture measures 38 feet tall and 28 feet wide at its widest point, with an internal room of 6 feet in diameter at its base; it will serve to enclose the viewer in the desert. From within this twisting mass of sand and rock, the viewer has nowhere to look except up toward the sky – towards space.

Much of the work that laid the foundation for NASA in 1958 occurred in southern New Mexico,

relying on the labor of the people there. Southern New Mexico has a very large Spanish-speaking population, and the culture of the area is heavily inspired by the people’s Hispanic heritage. When NASA moved out of New Mexico to bases in Florida and Huntsville, the people of New Mexico were either forced to migrate across the country with their jobs, or be out of work entirely.


This story is particularly important to me because it is how my grandfather ended up in Huntsville, and with his moving, he became isolated from his family and culture. He, along with so many others, faced discrimination in the workplace to the point where he abandoned the Spanish language almost entirely. He refused to teach his children, and then later his grandchildren, any Spanish because he felt that it would only hold you back in the workplace; English was the language that the world operated in, and to be successful, you had to accept that fact. In the early 1970’s, NASA decided they were going to move in a new direction with their German leadership, and coincidentally let all of the Hispanic people from New Mexico go, prompting discrimination lawsuits and a retraction of this decision on NASA’s part.

NASA was not built exclusively on the backs of the people of southern New Mexico, but they were an important part of its history that are overlooked by the people of Huntsville. “Into Space” serves as a reminder of the work that these people did on the ground in the name of spaceflight.

A stained glass window of a knight.

The Religion of the Lost Cause at the University of Alabama

By Alabama Monuments No Comments

By Jerryn Puckett

The stained-glass window currently on display at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa showcases the religious and cultural iconography of the Post-Civil War South. Religion has been intertwined with the Southern cause since before the Civil War. In the eyes of the South, slavery and the Southern establishment were a divine right that had been bestowed on them. This divine right needed to be protected; thus, any act of aggression against the South was an act against their religious beliefs. Prior to the Civil War, sermons spread through the South carrying a message of a divine crusade. They preached that it was the responsibility, and destiny, of Southerners to protect morality and Southern virtues from corruption.

A stained glass window of a knight.
Image: Courtesy of Teresa Golson

When the war broke out, it was interpreted as being the peak in a moral crisis and a battle against corruption and virtue. Religion was used to defend the existence of the Southern establishment and was the foundation of Southern culture. Thus, it would be the motivator for them to continue a war.

After the war, there was a desire to create a culture that was even more distinct than other parts of the nation. The solution was to further weave cultural and religious identities into perceptions of Southern defeat. Falling back on the old sermons and the concept of the divine crusade, religion not only explained what had happened, but it also gave many Southerners a community to cling to. The combination of spiritual religion and cultural religion created the narrative of the Lost Cause; an idea that the South had a distinct and superior culture that was pure. The war was not fully lost and if they adhered to their values, they could triumph against impure invaders.

Traitorous Monuments in Public Spaces: Whose Heroes Are We Remembering?

By Alabama Monuments No Comments

The Monument to Confederate Soldiers and Sailors is a public display located on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Alabama, erected in 1898. With almost 750,000 casualties, the Civil War was the deadliest conflict in American history. Too focused on matters for the living to properly take care of the dead, armies left behind shallow graves, unnamed markers, and hasty memorials in their wake. After Appomattox, a similar question confronted both armies: what to do with their dead soldiers?

Many thought it was the government’s responsibility to handle fallen soldiers. Private organizations and military units set out to find and return the dead due to their rights as citizens of the United States. The same treatment was not afforded the Confederates. Left behind to rot, southern armies spared no resources for this grisly task. As hostilities ceased, Confederate soldiers were not treated the same as Union ones. After all, they were traitors and their rights as citizens were not the same. What, then, should be done with southern dead soldiers and how should they be remembered?

White southerners were desperate to recover the established racial hierarchy lost during the war. No official mechanism to honor Southern soldiers created additional bitterness and humiliation. After the war and well into the 20th century, southern organizations fused these ideas together. Large monuments, placed in conspicuous public spaces, sprouted across the south with the primary function of rewriting the war’s legacy by highlighting the individual soldier’s sacrifice rather than the racist-infused Confederate government.

The dedication speeches emphasized the soldier’s devotion to duty, sacrifice, and bravery. More prominent were explicit references to Alabama’s rights to slavery, stating that the “Anglo-Saxon race” was superior to all other races, reflective of the times when white supremacy was an accepted ideology. This 88-foot tall monument, on an extraordinarily prominent position on public grounds, memorializes and misremembers false ideas that Confederate soldiers fought valiantly in support of a righteous cause. Its purpose is not controversial. It was designed and remains a symbol of hate, bigotry, and a morally corrupt society desperate to remember the power they once had.