The Clinton Presidential Center’s exhibit, “Cultural Heroes,” a collection of seven larger-than-life clay sculptures created by Nashville-based artist Alan LeQuire, made its debut last month as part of the Clinton Center’s Black History Month celebration. Each sculpture represents a musician who shaped the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement: Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Marian Anderson, and Josh White.
The artist’s inspiration for “Cultural Heroes” is twofold. One of LeQuire’s favorite museums is the Cluny Museum in Paris. The museum displays the heads of the kings of France, which were broken off the facade of Notre Dame during the French Revolution and rediscovered during the 1970s. These larger-than-life stone heads made a lasting impact on the artist. Second, he wanted to memorialize the musicians who put their careers on the line and became the “grandparents of the Civil Rights movement.”
From the organizers:
LeQuire is one of the country’s foremost figurative sculptors and is best known for his colossal masterworks, “Athena Parthenos,” the largest indoor statue in the Western Hemisphere and “Musica,” one of the largest bronze figure groups in the world.
“I didn’t want to create an exact likeness; I wanted to create a living presence,” said LeQuire. “That’s also the reason behind the scale. I want people to walk in the room and feel the presence of these remarkable musicians who, when they were at the top of their game, were almost channeling the divine.”
“Cultural Heroes” was previously displayed at the National Civil Rights Museum and the Janice Mason Art Museum in 2016, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 2015, and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center in 2012.
“Alan’s ‘Cultural Heroes’ sculptures beautifully capture the heart and soul of these amazing performers and civil rights pioneers,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation. “We are thrilled to share his work with our visitors and hope that they walk away with a greater appreciation of the artists, their music, and their contribution to civil rights.”
“Cultural Heroes” is on view at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center (Little Rock, Arkansas) through May 5, 2019. For more details, visit LeQuireGallery.com.