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Witch Trials

“Salem Witchtrials” Clay maquette.

Clay maquette presentation

This proposal for the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Permanent Memorial intends to depict the drama, intensity and ambiguity, as well as the emotionalism and polarity that was central to the events that took place at this important moment in American history.

At no other time has there been an opportunity for a three dimensional work of art to be created for the Salem witch trials. For this reason, all attention and resources have been placed on the creation of such a dynamic bronze sculpture with the rest of the park only slightly altered from its natural state. Much of the town of Salem is dedicated to the historical preservation of these unique and intriguing events, with little or no imagery of notoriety this artist felt compelled to fill this missing piece.

Discussion of imagery within sculpture:

1. Symbols appear which identify the theme of witchcraft such as the broom, cat, goat’s head, the cape, and some symbols are particular to the Salem trials such as the noose and the attire of the pilgrims.

2. The sword/cross is a dominant symbol as it plays a multidimensional role. As a cross, it represents the Church, a force that contributed to beliefs at that time. The cross bars of the gilt and the blade symbolize the many polarities, for example, the conflict between scientific materialism and piousness (including belief in the invisible world.)  The last dying triumph (the falling cross/sword) of the power of the hidden world to inflict judgment was expressed in the lack of individual legal rights and the flurry of conjecture based upon fear of witchcraft and the unknown.

3. The mass of swirling chaos emerging from the cape of the woman also represents flame; with the cross being overcome by fear and controversy. Flame also engulfed thousands in Europe for similar charges who remain unacknowledged.

“Twisted Cross” clay maquette. Alternative entry

4. An incarcerated woman is chosen to symbolize all the persecuted mainly because most people identify witches as women. Is she innocent? Of what crime is she accused? By what means has her guilt been proven? Her expression of helplessness and hopelessness is borne of both guilty and innocent, for witch or no witch, no one was protected from the hysteria of the witch hunt.

5. The sword with its cross symbol was used to guard and protect against witches. The belief within the church’s fellowcraft that they were protected from the doings of the Devil was betrayed – hence the sword was used against them and their worst fears released. Here the woman represents the people of Salem themselves – victim of themselves.

6. And finally, the cross/sword is ultimately the protection that saves Salem from an even worse a fate of hysteria. The discipline of piety, a striving for order, the sword has power within a society which believes in magic and in an archetypal manner, is used as a weapon against the evil of chaos to restore order.