Mortar Man is A-OK. No Structural Damage Reported
The WestVirginiaVille News Hotline received this reassuring phone message today, left by Charleston, W.Va., sculptor P. Joseph Mullins as the region picks up its lawn chairs and recovers from the earthquake that recently rattled Charleston and much of the mid-Atlantic seaboard:
“Joe Mullins here. With the quake damaging the National Cathedral and Washington Monument, I thought I should call in and tell you that Morter Man has survived the quake. Homeland Security should be notified – someone should be notified. Have a good day.”
Among other rather larger works, Mullins is known as the sculptor of Mortar Man, located about 15 feet above street level in a niche between the businesses at 110 and 102 Capitol St., in Charleston, W.Va. Some years back, while working on the sculpted ‘G’ letters seen on a nearby column, Mullins had concrete left over and created the little peeking man.
‘Mortar Man,’ as he subsequently became known, has achieved a sort of tiny fame. Just last month, I saw a knot of befuddled out-of-towners wandering near the entrance of the Squire Tobacco Shop a few doors down. I overheard ‘tiny man‘ and ‘sculpture.’ I did my civic/tourist-friendly duty and directed them to Mortar Man’s mug.
Mullins is also known for a few rather larger pieces, including the four larger-than-life bronze sculptures (seen at right in separate shots) at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial at the state Capitol Complex. The figures represent America’s four major 20th century conflicts and the four major branches of military service: a World War I dough boy, a World War II sailor, a Korean aviator and a Vietnam Marine. Each figure is in full gear, notes the link above, “authentic to the period and rank represented, as meticulously researched by the sculptor.”
The entry on him at the West Virginia Encyclopedia describes the fifth sculpture in this series and the attendant controversy about it by some – rankled to see a casually dressed female soldier in the field:
He created a bronze statue to honor female West Virginia veterans, which sparked some controversy. The design for the statue was unveiled in 2003, but some female veterans said it was not feminine enough. Finally, in 2010, the work went on display on the state capitol campus near the Veterans’ Memorial.
Below is a West Virginia Public TV video on the controversy over the memorial to female veterans before it was finally resolved and the statue placed on the state Capitol grounds. No disputes so far over Mortar Man’s outfit. | Douglas Imbrogno