Jacksonville’s best public art: Spiritualized Life, Charles Adrian Pillars

It’s arguably the eye-catcher during your visit to Memorial Park -- Spiritualized Life, the bronze sculpture created by Charles Adrian Pillars, is your choice for Jacksonville’s best public art.

The statue honors the Floridians that died during their service in World War I. The backdrop: A picturesque view of the St. Johns River.

The grassy area surrounding the statue is often filled with picnicking families and pick-up soccer games on the weekends. It’s a perfect spot for an evening stroll and to watch the sunset.

As mentioned on the Memorial Park Association’s website, Pillars wrote that he “desired this memorial to present the idea of life, its struggle and its victory.”

While striving to make a composition visualizing this, I found a poem by Alan Seeger, a soldier- victim of the war. At once I saw the typical spirit of the boys who went overseas – saw with their eyes a world in the insane grip of greed and ambition, caught in the ceaseless swirl of selfishness, hate and covetousness, ever struggling against submergence. I saw these boys giving up their homes, sweethearts, wives and mothers to go overseas and through the supreme sacrifice make secure the happiness and safety of their loved ones. With this vivid picture in mind, I constructed a sphere to represent the world, engirdled with masses of swirling water typifying the chaotic earth forces. In this surging mass of waters, I shaped human figures, all striving to rise above this flood, struggling for mere existence. Last, surmounting these swirling waters, with their human freight, I placed the winged figure of Youth, representative of spiritual life, the spirit of these boys which was the spirit of victory. Immortality attained not through death, but deeds; not a victory of brute force, but of spirit. This figure of Youth Sacrificed wears his crown of laurels won. He holds aloft an olive branch, the emblem of peace.

The statue was tested in 2017, when the storm surge from Hurricane Irma flooded Memorial Park, though when the storm passed, Spiritualized Life remained.

Storm surge from Hurricane Irma in Memorial Park