MLK Jr. statue go­ing up in At­lanta

Artist de­scribes por­trait as most dif­fi­cult ever

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION | WORLD - By Kath­leen Foody

AT­LANTA — The sculpted clay was dry and the bronze would soon be cast, but artist Martin Dawe still found him­self wak­ing with a start be­fore dawn, wor­ried that he didn’t get the de­tails of the fa­mous man’s face ex­actly right.

On Mon­day, Dawe will find out if he suc­ceeded when of­fi­cials un­veil his statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the Ge­or­gia state Capi­tol’s grounds for the 54th an­niver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton.

The civil rights leader’s statue is go­ing up in his South­ern home­town at a time when mon­u­ments hon­or­ing Civil War Con­fed­er­ates are com­ing down in many other places across the South.

Get­ting to this point was a three-year strug­gle. Of­fi­cials had to ne­go­ti­ate with King’s fam­ily for the right to use his im­age. Then an artist was se­lected for the pro­ject, only to be killed in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent. Af­ter a lengthy screen­ing, Dawe re­placed him.

Then came the artis­tic chal­lenge.

“It’s the most dif­fi­cult por­trait I’ve ever done in my whole ca­reer,” Dawe said. “He has very elu­sive fea­tures. He has a very dis­tinct pro­file but no over strong char­ac­ter­is­tic like some his­tor­i­cal fig­ures.”

Dawe knew other trib­utes to King had been crit­i­cized and he set one goal: Make the 8-foot statue look like the man.

In the fin­ished piece, Dawe aimed for an ex­pres­sion just short of a smile but “hope­ful” and “deep in thought.” Once in place, the com­pleted statue’s head will be turned slightly, gaz­ing to­ward Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

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