Wisconsin artist and teacher Andre Ferrella was already making unique portraits, encasing enhanced photographs in cloudy white plexiglass to create what he called spirit boxes. But when the military death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan began to mount, he turned his creative attention from the living to the service members who had died.
“I was seeing the caskets come back, and it was very emotional thinking of these men and women who had given the ultimate sacrifice,” Ferrella said.
The project became “The Rise of The Fallen.” It began with 2010 art exhibit in Wisconsin (photo). Now operating as a non-profit, Ferrella has aspirations for a permanent national monument, meanwhile working with veterans groups to adopt the project regionally.
Sonoma Valley’s American Legion Post 489 believes “The Rise of the Fallen” is the way to honor individual heroes for paying the ultimate sacrifice. It has commissioned 25 spirit boxes, each with the face of a soldier peering out through an ethereal cloud.
They will represent those killed from Sonoma and nearby counties, and be formally presented at the Veterans Day ceremony in November. The first spirit box will be that of Tim Shea, son of Sonoma’s William and Mary Shea, who was killed in the conflict that has now claimed the lives of 6,419 American service members.
“It’s a unique memorial,” Magnani said of the light, white box that seems to be lit from within. “It’s not concrete, not metal, not bronze.”
Magnani said his first look at a spirit box was a surreal moment. “It’s very emotional, very moving. The person is there, yet not there.”
This sense of eternity, of personal connection, Magnani said, is a timely way to pay tribute to the fallen and their families. “We want to honor them now, not wait generations.”
As Ferrella said, “Soldiers are not just name black letters on a piece of paper, or letters carved in stone. They have a unique identity, that of their face.”
Magnani is working to fund more of the boxes, which cost about $100, to commemorate the California soldiers lost. The portable boxes are easily arrayed into what could be traveling exhibits, but he’s also looking for a “home base.”
To donate or to find out more, reach Magnani at 996.8386 or Post489@hotmail.com.
That is, if he doesn’t get to you first. “I can’t find a more worthy cause to give my time to, even if I have to knock on every door.”