Martin Luther King Jr. as Mao Zedong
Cornelius Edmund Sullivan- Washington DC
Images do have meaning. Martin Luther King had a dream. Forty three years after his death he has a grand monument on the Washington Mall. It was just dedicated with the first Black President of the
The sculptor of the King sculpture is Chinese. There is no problem with his being Chinese, there is a problem with the kind of art that he has made. It is specific and has a particular meaning that does not fit with Dr. King. He has made sculptures of the dictator Mao. The answer given to the critics is that he was the best sculptor. It is a monumental figure coming out of the massive block. Wouldn’t it have been wise to choose an artist who can do portraits?
It has a look of Socialist Realism. Denver-based artist Ed Dwight, who was on an early planning team for the memorial, told USA Today, “Dr. King would be turning over in his grave if he knew the sculptor was from a communist country”. Is this just an unreasonable prejudice? Maybe it is not, if you look at the result, and realize that it may be a product of the aesthetic formation of the sculptor molded by the countless images of Chairman Mao Zedong that he made projecting dictatorial authority.
This may sound like a familiar refrain from me because of an article I wrote about the new sculpture of Pope John Paul II in front of the train station in Rome.-Papa Wojtyla as Capeman.. The
The crossed arms of the pose of Dr. King speak more about repose than about the true gestures of the crusader, martyr, spiritual civil rights leader who was beaten, jailed and finally assassinated. He was a visionary. Do you remember his determined walk as he crossed the
Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Chester French, Washington, DC
Portraiture has a base in proportion. If each feature is correct in size and shape you can have a “likeness”. Sometimes by magic or accident, after working for a likeness, an artist can capture something of the essence, or the soul, of the individual. The greatness of many important artists has been based upon their desire and ability to do portraits. These include Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, along with the American sculptors Daniel Chester French and Augustus Saint Gaudens.
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Augustus Saint Guadens,
One of the greatest public sculptures in the
Shaw lived across the street on
With Reverend Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy, and Pope John Paul II the record of photographs and movies is vast and rich with information about the appearance and movements of the person. That is why it is such a travesty to have a sculpture of John Paul in Rome and a sculpture of Reverend King in DC that do not look like the men that we came to know.
Professor Isabel MacIlvain from
It’s too late now. The process was flawed. There are sculptors who can do portraits. Why didn’t someone say in the beginning, “No, that’s a bad idea, Martin never posed like a dictator.”