New public sculpture at MLK Park pays homage to black culture

When the MLK Day 2022 march takes off from Martin Luther King Park, it will have a new iconic public sculpture as its starting gate.

Spheres of reflection by San Antonio artist Kaldric dow towers 17 feet in the air at the entrance of the park, representing a crowning achievement for the artist and for the artists of color of the city.

Spheres is not only Dow’s first public artwork, but the steel and concrete structure is his first large-scale sculpture, made possible through the “Sketch to Sculpture” program of the Department of Arts and Culture of the city instituted in 2019.

The department recognized the need to “facilitate a diverse and equitable public art collection” that could incorporate local artists, many of whom would otherwise not have the resources, skills and experience to work on a large scale with artists. unknown materials, according to Interim Marketing Manager Stacey Norton. , film and music administrator.

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San Antonio artist Kaldric Dow with his latest project, Spheres of reflection, at Martin Luther King Park. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Previously, Dow was best known as a portrait painter, having exhibited at Luminaria, AP Art Lab, and San Antonio International Airport. He said he can easily generate ideas for sculptures, but do Spheres and its accompanying piece installed in the River Walk Art Garden downtown would not have been conceivable without the Sketch to Sculpture program.

“First, before the pencil, it was in [my] head, ”said Dow, speaking about his formative idea for the piece, which began with a self-portrait and an elaborate hairstyle. “Knowing that something has come from your head to a pencil in pieces and in the sculpture, that… gives you power as a creator. “

The self-portrait evolved into a deliberately androgynous face – “I want to [people] feel familiar with the face where it can represent someone in their family or themselves, ”said Dow – carved from industrial Cor-Ten steel, a material traditionally prized by modern sculptors for its rusty patina. The choice was deliberate, in keeping with Dow’s constant exploration of dark skin tones in his portraits.

Rings of black painted steel spheres stacked four rows high evoke the hair embrace of black culture as a symbol of pride and celebration of heritage, Dow said. The sculpture resonates with its site in a series of words engraved on the lower rows of spheres, each taken from the king’s speeches: dream, bold, desire, courageous, unity, gratitude, responsibility, devotion, and change.

“Change” stood out from Dow “because I felt like it was something that was needed, and something that is a big topic these days,” with calls for police reform, the end of mass incarceration, slavery reparations and other calls for racial equality in San Antonio and across the United States

Although Spheres might not look like Dow’s earlier artwork at first glance, he said as a portrait, it stays consistent with his approach, and he gives similar advice to other two-dimensional artists looking to broaden their skills and tap into the city’s resources to make their sculpture dreams come true.

“They may think they should change their style, but they could do the same style,” he said, whether it was portraits, landscapes or other forms.

Before they can start the process, he said, they must first ask for the List of shortlisted for public art and support services and public art mentorship programs. If selected for a project, they should be prepared to work collaboratively with City of San Antonio representatives, engineers, manufacturers, and construction crews, and be patient during this process which can be long. Selected in September 2020, Dow had to wait for a pandemic break before starting work on Spheres, then suffered several weather-related delays before the part was installed on December 23.

Now that the process of making Spheres of reflection is over, Dow is eagerly awaiting the public dedication ceremony scheduled for Jan. 11, and at the MLK March January 17th.

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