Georgia sculptor offers ‘celebration' of King in Washington

As the “Restoring Honor” rally draws thousands to Washington Saturday, a Georgia artist will be trying to remind the world that it's also the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Michael Murphy will install his temporary sculpture, “People’s Memorial to King,” on the National Mall in Washington this weekend in an effort to divert some of the attention from the rally to King.

Murphy, an assistant art professor at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, is part of Celebrate the Dream, a grass-roots network of artists, social and political activists, and community organizers.

“This is an event that is being held to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King,” Murphy said, adding that he was motivated in part by the Glenn Beck-organized rally being held at the same location and on the same date as King's march on Washington.

But Murphy said while the artwork is inspired by Beck, it is not about him.

“My agenda is to do something positive and speak about people coming together,” Murphy said.

Organizers say Murphy’s sculpture will be 77 feet wide and 37 feet tall and show different sides of King while promoting unity.

The temporary structure will be on display at 13th Street on the National Mall, between the Department of Agriculture and the American Museum of Natural History. After a brief dedication Saturday morning, the sculpture will be on display all day before it is removed on Sunday.

“Our goal is to elevate the occasion, to celebrate the memory of Dr. King, not have it belittled,” said Ericka Taylor, the project manager for Celebrate the Dream.

Murphy is a specialist in large-scale installations, and his piece is a "directional" sculpture that changes depending on the vantage point.

“If you were to stray from the ideal point of view, the message gets lost," Murphy said. "The messages of Martin Luther King become distorted as the individual moves away.”

The closer you get, the clearer the message becomes.

Murphy’s piece is comprised of four charcoal drawings. To get the full scope of the art, you have to walk around it.

You can start off looking at an image of King pointing at the crowd at the conclusion of his famous speech, with the words “I have a dream” screaming from the top. But as you walk around, the image expands into another image and saying from King.

The final image, as you continue to walk around, is a simple portrait of King with the words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“It looks simple, but a lot of complicated math is involved,” Murphy said. “It is a metaphor of Martin Luther King’s idea of people working together. I am trying to make something that will communicate with a wide audience.”

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