Art@Site Jasper D' Ambrosi Jacob's Ladder

Jasper D' Ambrosi


Jacob's Ladder

American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial
Seeking to create a memorial to honor the service of merchant mariners in times of peace as well as conflict, the Southern California Chapter of the American Merchant Veterans and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Maritime Union established the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial Committee. With funding assistance from the CRA/LA, this committee selected sculptor Jasper D’Ambrosi’s proposal for his bronze statue, Jacob’s Ladder, which depicts two merchant mariners climbing up a Jacob’s ladder after a rescue at sea. Unfortunately, the artist passed away before he could complete the final clay model. In tribute to their father, sculptors Marc and Michael D’Ambrosi completed the enlargement, casting the statue at the then family foundry, Arizona Bronze. The 17 ½ ft. high bronze statue atop a 5 ft. high base is part of a fountain with running water and is illuminated at night.
'Jacob’s Ladder' is often used as a biblical allusion from Genesis to Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to heaven. For those who have served at sea it is also a term for a rope or cable ladder, with wooden steps, that hangs off the side of a ship. Jacob’s Ladders sway, twist and slap the sides of a ship with the wind and the waves. They are not a favorite piece of equipment for any sailor, but for a sailor in peril a Jacob’s Ladder can often be the only route to survival.
The main focus of the American Merchant Marine Veterans’ Memorial in San Pedro, California is the unforgettable work of art by the late sculptor Jasper D’Ambrosi of one shipmate attempting to save another while clinging by a single hand to a Jacob’s Ladder. The concept and the design of the memorial are superb – capturing courage, strength, fear and hope in a single image. It is a moment that is universal, experienced by sailors of every nation for as long as humans have sailed the oceans. It may have happened because of a battle or a storm or an accident. It is that single moment that is the dividing point between success and failure, between life and death. It is a moment that I have personally witnessed. The D’Ambrosi work is among my favorite lost at sea memorials.
Jasper D'Ambrosi, son of Italian immigrants, was born and raised in Wilmington, California. He attended University of Southern California on a football scholarship where he studied painting and graduated cum laude. Out of college, D'Ambrosi worked nine years in the art department of Douglas Aircraft, after which he founded and operated his own printing and design business while painting and sculpting part-time. In 1970, he sold his business to become a full-time artist.
D'Ambrosi is well known for 'The Fallen Warrior', a companion piece to Arizona's Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, which stands outside the state capital. Other well-known pieces include "El Capitan", a life-size longhorn which is located in downtown Dodge City, Kansas; and "Buffalo Jone-Visionary", another life-size monument in Garden City, Kansas. Early on October 1, 2010, the "El Capitan" statue was damaged when a car crashed into it, knocking it from its pedestal. Damage included a broken tail and one broken horn. The City of Dodge City plans to have the statue restored and replaced on its pedestal.
On 1 August 1986, D'Ambrosi died after a brief illness due to blood cell abnormalities suspected to be caused by years of working toxic art materials. At the time of his death, he was about to begin the final clay model of 'Jacob's Ladder', a 20-foot-high (6.1 m) sculpture for the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial. His two sons, Marc and Michael D'Ambrosi, completed the sculpture shortly after their father's death. It is on public display today at Los Angeles Harbor on the corner of South Harbor Boulevard and West Sixth Street in San Pedro, California.