Moffett’s art depicts pain, repercussions of Vietnam War


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Michael Moffett wants fans of his art to think, especially when they look at his painting “Portable War Memorial.’’

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Michael Moffett

The Vietnam War is forever ingrained in the psyche of soldiers who served in the controversial conflict. In Michael Moffett’s case, it also is an integral part of his art.

Moffett, who specializes in ultra-realistic sculptures, has distilled the war experience into mind-jarring large scale pieces such as “Portable War Memorial,” a two-part sculpture Moffett created two years ago. In the sculpture, an aging veteran in a wheelchair stares at a sculpture within the sculpture, a torso of a veteran on a tank, hand with gun pointing to his temple. Moffett served as the model for both figures. It is eerily realistic because Moffett favors pliable plastics as a medium and includes every detail, including hair in the nostrils.

“When people look at the sculpture, they think the veteran in the wheelchair is a real person,” he said.

“Portable War Memorial,” often found at The Foundry, Moffett’s studio in Cocoa Beach, has traveled, along with Moffett’s other works, to the Bishop Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. for a show that runs through Oct. 6.

Moffett takes pride in creating art that is not comfortable. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t help but look at it and ponder.

“I call it aggressive cerebralism,” he said.

The artist enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967 and, after boot camp at Parris Island and infantry training at Camp Lejeune, he was sent off to San Diego for communications radio school.

“I went to the Mediterranean for war games and then spent the whole of 1969 in Vietnam,” he said.

Vietnam in 1969 was, to put it nicely, not the greatest of places in which to be and Moffett was serving in the most war-torn area of the country.

“I spent all my time in the jungle west of Da Nang on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Dodge City area, just southwest of Da Nang,” he said.

The infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1969 was the site of the largest number of casualties in the conflict, but luck was on Moffett’s side and he was never wounded.

With an Instamatic camera on hand, he recorded his experience as a field radio operator. The images that emerged are a sobering testament of the infinite sadness and waste of war. In his photo titled “Marines Going Home, Da Nang, Vietnam,” a helicopter circles on its way to pick up two soldiers, now wrapped bodies awaiting the final transport home.

Moffett’s works, including the images he took while in Vietnam, will be featured this fall on local PBS station WUCF.

For 15 years, Moffett ran a bronze foundry in Cocoa Beach. He remains devoted to the town, with a gallery and studio that pays homage in its name to the original foundry. Folks who walk by The Foundry gallery can’t help themselves but stop, mesmerized by Moffett’s works, and that is just the way Moffett wants it.

To view Moffett’s art, visit his gallery and studio at 71 N. Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach or moffettart.com. 

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