I saw a video that featured the work of a famous American sculptor, Anna Coleman Ladd. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, numerous museums displayed Anna’s work. Additionally, the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco exhibited her work. She also authored several books and painted portraits of many celebrities in her day.
But the name of Anna Coleman Ladd is most celebrated for the nearly 200 masterpieces she created as an act of mercy. In late 1917, her husband’s work as a physician took the couple to war torn France. There Anna met Francis Derwent Wood, a British sculptor in the Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department in Paris.
Before the days of plastic surgery, Francis Wood desired to make life more tolerable for horrifically disfigured soldiers. Too old to enlist himself, Wood volunteered to help out in Army hospitals near the war front. When confronted with soldiers who had portions of their faces blown away, he conceived the idea of lifelike cosmetic masks to help these men. Many of these wounded warriors were refusing to return home for fear of repulsing their families and loved ones.
Anna Coleman cast her lot in with her fellow sculptor and devoted her amazing talents to bring healing and hope to the more than 20,000 facially disfigured soldiers. They would begin the process by making a plasticine mold of the soldier’s mutilated face. From this they created a cast, upon which they modeled a “new face” from clay to fill in the missing noses, eyes, jaws, and cheek bones. They based their creations on pre-war photos of the soldiers. Once fashioned, a thin coating of galvanized copper was poured over the sculpture, creating the mask. Anna and Francis would then paint the mask in enamel colors to match the soldier’s own skin tones. They used the soldier’s own hair to add eyebrows and mustaches to the masks.
These two artists used their talents to give soldiers their lives back again. Their work so profoundly helped these wounded warriors to return to normal lives that France awarded them the Légion d’Honneur Croix de Chevalier and Serbia inducted them into the Serbian Order of Saint Sava. Today, the Smithsonian Institution honors Anna Ladd’s incredible labor of love by displaying samples of her work.
What struck me most about Anna Ladd’s artistic wonders was the way they contrast so much of today’s art. Over the last five years journalists and artists have been waging a war for “The Right to Offend.” In other words, in the name of “free speech” they want to be able to say, write, and create anything—no matter how badly it hurts others and attacks their cherished beliefs. “Artists” who submit piles of trash and feces as legitimate art want equal acceptance as artists who use their talents to inspire. Artists who deface religious objects want the right to keep on offending others with complete immunity.
But why can’t art bring healing to people’s lives as Anna Ladd’s art did? Why can’t journalists be more constructive and helpful in their words, instead of the poison they’re so fond of spewing? Our nation is filled with wounded people and all our media does is toss more pain their way. People are hurting so badly that the last thing they need is more putdowns, more trampling of their religious beliefs and values.
But ours is a culture of offense. Offending others is the basis of our humor, the content of our new commentaries, and the theme of every movie and sitcom. And the pain-level of our society just keeps rising. Either we reverse this disastrous trend and begin helping, healing, and affirming one another—or, we self-destruct.
Never before have we been in greater need of fervently praying to God that prayer penned 800 years ago.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Information from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Coleman_Ladd