Family & Friends · Fine Art

A Memorial Day Parade and the Making of Art

Waiting for the Parade66x106 87 89(1)Waiting for the Parade, 1987/89, 66″ x 106”


My special relationship with Memorial Day began in Freehold, New Jersey, a working-class town famous for being Bruce Springsteen’s birthplace. For over a decade in the 1980s, camera slung around my neck, I spent the day documenting the annual parade, photographing children, parents, the old and the young—some of whom were aware that this holiday honored those who died in the carnage of past wars, though most were oblivious to history, excitedly exulting in the moment of pageantry. On Memorial Day I was able to slide in and out of crowds unnoticed, given a mantle of invisibility by the sheer number of people. I therefore got to record a diversity of onlookers responding candidly to the spectacle, thereby acquiring a vast amount of source material for a year’s worth of large pastels-on-canvas drawings.


Veteran with Flag, 74x22, 1985(1)World War II Veteran, 1985, 74”x22”,  pastels/cutout canvas.


Two Girls 68x48(1)Two Girls, 1986, 68 “x 48, pastels/cutout canvas.


Boy with Balloon 75x37, 1985(1)Boy With Balloon, 1985, 75 “x 37, pastels/cutout canvas.


Crowds pushed up against the storefronts, flushed bodies meeting the coolness of glass; soda pop, ice cream and ketchup beginning to trickle down the shirts of spectators. The parade itself was endless —caravans of floats, many with young schoolchildren gracefully posing, experiencing for one brief moment what it feels like to have the public spotlight of admiration shining upon them. I loved photographing those wonderful lapses of posturing, when recognition of a parent or friend in the packed, crowd-filled sidewalks initiated a loss of composure and a squall of wildly waving hands. 


Father and Kids 86.6x49 1986(1)Father and Kids, 1986, 86.6 “x 49, pastels/cutout canvas.


UntitledFreehold Girl, 1984, 61x 54, charcoal/canvas.


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Waiting 89Waiting, 1986, 89.6″ x  66, pastels/cutout canvas.


Two hours later I had already used up rolls of black-and-white film as I wove through the bystanders. capturing their expressions and gestures—information that would be pored over in the darkrooms and eventually transformed into artwork. Backs of heads and profiles, varying in scale from close-ups to the impressionistic blur of the far-away, are seized by my eye, including the singular individual picked out for special scrutiny because of a human moment unnoticed by all but my camera.


Boy on Skateboard Sides I and II 1988(1)Boy on Skateboard, Sides II, 1988, and I freestanding sculpture, pastels/canvas/wood, 88 ½” x 29.


Freehold Parade90x59 1985(1) Freehold Parade, 1985, 90×59, pastels/cutout canvas.


RELATED: Father’s Day: Words, Words, Words

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  • Grace Graupe-Pillard June 4, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Robin – Coincidence – so you know how important those parades were for the community. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • R Hurewitz June 2, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Not 1968…..1986! Oops

  • R Hurewitz June 2, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Freehold 1968…I was there decorating the Memorial Park with my art students from FLC. What visual memories your art brings to us!I’ve enjoyed so many of your literary as well as visual pieces which capture the various facets of life in your unique way. I’m so fortunate to be able to experience my passion for art with you as my mentor. Thank you, Grace, for being GRACE.

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 31, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Barbara Bickel – Appreciate your words – thank you.

  • Barbara Bickel May 30, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you for the colorful and poignant scenes you created not only in the variety of unique, skillful depictions, but in your wonderful writings as well…You are truly a consummate artist!!! They helped recreate personal Memorial Day memories for me which were SO meaningful…really enjoyable!

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 30, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you Susan and June very much.

  • June Knopf May 30, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    I so appreciate your meaningful words, including “….some of whom were aware that this holiday honored those who died in the carnage of past wars, though most were oblivious to history, excitedly exulting in the moment of pageantry” and I admire your exquisite artwork which perfectly captures a point in time.

  • Susan Seaman May 30, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Nice article and great paintings, Grace. You really capture the essence of the spectators.

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 30, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Rosemary Pappa, Joan Davies and Lara Krall – My deep appreciation for your words of support for my writing and artworks.

  • Lara Krall May 30, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Your artwork really captures expressions and gestures so well. The people really come to life. Thanks for sharing Grace.

  • Joan Davies May 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Your fabulous paintings of ordinary people shines through. I can remember those faces from my own Memorial days in the past.,what a prolific artist you are. I miss you and the class but am never there when you have your classes. Joan

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 30, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Thank you Pat. I appreciate you reading this article.

  • Rosemary Pappa May 30, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Thank you Grace for sharing your special relationship to Memorial Day through your incredible paintings! You have memorialized your experience and given a piece of it to all who see these works.
    You’re a GIFT to the world , I’m grateful to know you !
    Rosemary Pappa

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Thank you Liz and Sandy. Those small meaningful gestures intrigue me.

  • Patricia Meko May 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Wonderful article and art!

  • Sandy Gellis May 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

    The images shine, memorial day parade……..words come next.

  • Liz May 29, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Great article, captures the essence of memorial day, wonderful paintings

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard May 29, 2016 at 8:07 am

    For clarity – my website address has changed to: