But from the moment I read about “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the installation of 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, I was convinced that Paul Crimmins has created something worthy of the World War I centenary. I also was convinced that I had to see it for myself. (The number of poppies corresponds to every British and Empire/Commonwealth soldier who died in The Great War.)
And this morning, Chuck and I did so. We attended as part of a huge crowd of other pilgrims, as the installation has indeed become a tremendously successful piece of public art. But as vast as the crowd was, it was overwhelmingly quiet and subdued, as befits a visit to what feels essentially like a cemetery.
The inspiration of the artwork is even clearer when one is on-site. Poppies come flowing from the Tower in a gush of symbolic blood and fill the moat in an undulating ocean of red that surrounds the ancient structure. (Only an aerial photo could do the extent of it full justice.) I was struck in particular by the strong presence in the crowd of the very old and the very young. “Blood Swept Lands” is a work of art that speaks to all generations. Everyone who visits comes away keenly aware that each red flower in that sea represents a human life lost in a tragic conflict.