MIKE MANDEL MOSAIC TILE PUBLIC ART PROJECTS
Washington State Veterans Home - Retsil WA, 2006
One inch porcelain and glass tile
13' x 38'
While researching my project for the Washington Veterans Home I was able to meet a number of vets who shared with me their memories of serving in the armed forces, many of whom had photographs and other artifacts from this important time in their lives. I took note of Retsil's motto: "Serving those who have served." And in this spirit I wanted this artwork to honor the residents here. When I had a chance to meet with a group of residents and asked the question, "What would be a symbol or object that brings everyone here together?" The answer came immediately: "These dog tags!" The identification necklace that spans generations. Glen Morrison posed for me with his "dog tags" which is depicted at the right side of the design. Glen's hand holds up the metal tag in the foreground, but his face is also visible in the background. I feel that it's important that an image of one of the vets appear in the design so that the symbols of patriotism, service and place would be thus humanized and specific. This mural is about lived experience.
I spent quite a bit of time at the archives and found a torn flag that one of the residents from an earlier time had left. The flag had flown on his navy ship, the USS Impulse, a corvette in the US Navy from 1942-45. I was taken by the sheer fragility of the flag that apparently had weathered into translucency. I photographed the flag hung in a window where one could see through to Sinclair Inlet and the city of Bremerton in the background. I also superimposed the 1929 arched entrance of Building Nine as a frame for the flag. This was an opportunity to connect one of the more elegant features of some of Retsil's early architecture into the design. The left side of the mural is a series of stars that derive from a cap owned by Iben Fetterly who lived here at Retsil with his wife two decades ago. The stars have numbers in their center, probably referring to years membership in a local VFW chapter. For me, the stars connect back to the design of the flag, but in a more metaphoric sense, each star represents and recognizes an individual who has contributed a significant portion of their lives in the service of our country.