Eternal Vigilance is the title of the bronze sculpture that huddles at the foot of the Erie Art Museum’s marble steps. The work of local artist John Silk Deckard, the sculpture has some history as an Erie landmark. It was first commissioned and installed in front of the Erie Art Center on West Sixth Street in 1978. When the Art Center moved to State Street and became the Erie Art Museum in 1983, the sculpture was installed in front of the Art Museum, where it remains today.
Eternal Vigilance is breathtakingly vital, a moment of tortured humanity captured in 500 pounds of bronze. The artist hoped to “get the viewers involved in unraveling and discovering the work.” Deckard described the piece as representing “a heroic, self-clutching figure.”
Created through the ancient process known as the lost wax bronze casting technique, Eternal Vigilance took nearly a year to complete. Deckard first made a series of small figures, known as maquettes, which he used as a guide in constructing the larger-than-life-sized statue out of quarter-inch-thick wax sheets. Having assembled these pieces, Deckard corrected any flaws by flame polishing. The 50 pound wax piece was transformed into the current bronze sculpture at the Studio Foundry in Cleveland.
John Silk Deckard was born in Erie in 1938, and studied locally with renowned painter and teacher Joseph Plavcan. He won a National Scholastic scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later attended Edinboro State College and Carnegie-Mellon University. Since the mid-Sixties his works have been exhibited in galleries across America and in Europe. He died in Erie on June 7, 1994 at the age of 55.
His work focused on the human figure. “Man,” Deckard said, “is the most dangerous species on earth. His only hope for salvation is himself.”
*The Erie Art Museum acquired the sculpture through the generosity of the following contributors: Mr. and Mrs. J. Walker, Robinson-Connor, Inc., Fred R. Alvord, Dr. and Mrs. David Doupé, Mr. and Mrs. David Laird, Mr. P. Gordon Lever, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Reed, Mr. Stoyan Rosenthal, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Wagner, Dr. Robert Stuart, and Mr. and Mrs. Lester Westphal.