I can understand why iconic sculptor Lei Yixin chose this (see above) particular depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr. (based on a famous photograph of the civil rights pioneer in front of a picture of Gandhi, see below) for King’s official monument in D.C. –he looks strong, serious, proud, revolutionary, powerful, stern, and even angry.
These are all qualities my parents and parents’ parents and parents’ parents’ parents sought (or seek) to embody. I can only imagine the same applies to Lei–after all, he looks kinda like a cross between my grandpa and crazy uncle Mon. To break it down, it seems that stern, angry, coolly calm men remind us of our fathers, and we want our leaders to be kinda like our VIP dads. Ergo, I love King, I love the statue.
Sure, one could have chosen a soft-focus, cuddly portrayal of King, but that would hardly have encapsulated the “fierce urgency of now” that drove King to act. A soft-focus, cuddly portrayal might simply render the monument a vision of a complacent urgency of whenever, and that’s hardly an active legacy.
So why is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts so unhappy? Did they not have a stern dad?
From Washington Post:
The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks “the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed statue recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries,” commission secretary Thomas Luebke said in a letter in April.
Well that seems like a a reasonable argument.
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