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Douwe Blumberg Sculpture


Monument honoring troops on horseback has Norman ties

"Free the Oppressed," a sculpture by Douwe Blumberg to honor U.S. special operations, will be unveiled on Veterans Day in New York. Most of the work on the bronze monument was done at a Norman foundry in central Oklahoma.

The story behind it is massive.

On Friday, Veterans Day, sculptor Douwe Blumberg will be present for the unveiling ceremony of a U.S. special operations monument to be placed near the World Trade Center site in New York City.

The 13-foot-tall sculpture was inspired by a photo taken in 2001 of U.S. special operation teams on horseback in northern Afghanistan. An anonymous group of individuals, including those who lost friends in the 9/11 attacks, commissioned the work, Blumberg said. The unveiling of the monument, "De Oppresso Liber," or "Free the Oppressed," is scheduled for Friday morning.

The statue was created to commemorate the role of U.S. special operations teams in the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

While Blumberg resides in De Mossville, Ky., much of the work on the bronze monument was done in Norman at The Crucible Foundry, a full-service foundry specializing in monumental bronze, and Synappsys Digital Services, a full-service sculpture enlargement and reduction company. "When I saw that picture I was like, 'This is crazy, this irony of this 21st-century soldier on this 16th-century Afghan Mountain Horse,'" Blumberg said recently while in Norman. "I was like, 'What the heck?'"

"Here's this technologically advanced Western culture working symbiotically with this ancient culture, coming together for a common goal. They needed to go in under the radar and navigate rough terrain. This was the way to do it."

A story on about these "horse soldiers" said "The mission was to synchronize tribal warfare against Taliban and al-Qaida enemies by riding with and advising rival Northern Alliance warlords."

Emotional work

For Blumberg, this particular work flips the cliche "What's wrong with this picture?" To this former horse trainer and military history buff, everything was right with this photo.

Born in Los Angeles, he spent some formative years in Europe being exposed to Western artistic traditions. Blumberg went on to attend the University of Southern California's Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts. He continued to study sculpture and metal works. But when he completed his education, instead of going into the arts he became a horse trainer. After several years he shifted back to the arts. He has completed more than 200 private and public commissions and has received numerous awards. Blumberg's passions past and present meet in this work dedicated to the service of all U.S. special operations forces.

'Powerful for me'

"This job is something I'm emotional about," Blumberg said. "This allows me to honor soldiers, capture a unique aspect of their service and then have the opportunity to put it in New York. I couldn't have scripted it better. This is super powerful for me."

The work has already touched others as well, including Todd Jenkins of The Crucible. Jenkins' cousin and the cousin's wife are in the U.S. Army. Jenkins has a deep respect for the military.

"I'm only a little familiar with what these guys had to do on horseback and I can't really imagine what that's like," Jenkins said. "I am really honored to be doing this."

John Pontari, manager at Synappsys, said working with Blumberg on this was "one of those once in a lifetime pieces we get to do" not only because of where it is going but what the bronze represents.

Pontari said, "We were just lucky enough to be a part of it."

After absorbing the image in the photo and talking to some of those pictured, Blumberg sculpted a "horse soldier" with a grenade launcher attached to an M4 carbine on a sling over his right shoulder. The rider is clutching binoculars in his right hand.

"You will be able to walk to it," Blumberg said, "but you won't be able to walk past it, because you can't walk past that story."

Spatial Thoughts on Sculpture by Bill West
Just such an inspiring piece by Douwe Blumberg. Douwe has captured a special and not often seen part of our society in time so very well. This important Douwe Blumberg Sculpture encapsulates history in bronze, both past and present.
What a special tribute to our troops who protect us - thanks to you all, may God Bless you...

Douwe Blumberg Sculpture
(**Embargoed until November 11, 2011, goes with Bryan Painter Story) Douwe Blumberg (black jacket) watches as Todd Jenkins puts a patina on Blumberg's statue honoring special operations forces on Friday, November 4, 2011, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Douwe Blumberg Sculpture
(**Embargoed until November 11, 2011, goes with Bryan Painter Story) Douwe Blumberg, shown at The Crucible Foundry in Norman, points out a piece of steel from the New York City twin towers of 9/11 incorporated into the base of his statue honoring U.S. Special Operations forces. The statue is to be unveiled Friday in New York. STEVE SISNEY - THE OKLAHOMAN