It seems that while many of us weren’t looking, another sculpture appeared in Columbia’s ever-expanding public art landscape, this time at the corner of Lady and Gadsden streets in historic Congaree Vista.
Unveiled in February, “Motherhood,” created by international award-winning stone sculptor Nora Valdez, was finally dedicated during Artista Vista in April. Round with soft edges, yet still faithful and sturdy, Valdez’s “motherhood,” standing in a quasi-superhero pose, makes the powerful statement that motherly essence may be warm and beautiful, but it’s tough, strong and should not be negligible. with.
This is the intention of the artist.
According to Valdez, who is Argentinian, the sculpture represents “All motherhood. A working mother. An immigrant mother. A mother who holds her family together with few resources. A mother who faces her challenges with strength. A mother who stands up for her family. A mother firmly rooted in her determination, as her oversized feet suggest.
Standing 5 feet 2 but raised over 6 feet tall by the supporting foundation beneath the statue, “Motherhood” was carved from Indiana Limestone because the artist believes the material to be the most compact of the limestones, holding well and patina well over time. Sounds like a lot of mothers we know. The faceless sculpture is meant to represent any woman, regardless of race or ethnicity. Her children are attached to her waist but, says the artist, “I made them smaller than life because I want the focus to be on the mother and not the children”.
“Motherhood” arrived in the Vista after premiering at Valdez’ studio in Boston where the artist has lived and worked since returning from school in Italy in 1986. Colombia-based artist and member of the public arts committee of the Vista Guild, Stephen Chesley researched Valdez’s work. works, judging it to be a perfect addition to the “sculptural corridor” the committee envisions reaching from Main Street to Lady Street and, one day, it hopes, to the waterfront sea.
According to Lee Snelgrove, former executive director of One Columbia for Arts and Culture and current acting public art administrator, while the concept of motherhood was not the intended topic when the committee decided to create or acquire additional public art for the Vista, “the group loved her (Valdez) focuses on both the immigrant experience and the celebration of women and mothers…” He added that the project was “fully funded by the Congaree Vista Guild”.
On the heels of the 2021 grand opening of the Main and Gervais Street “Architect of Strength” monument, created by SC artist Deedee Morrison and implemented by the Columbia City of Women organization, local arts visionaries are raising the challenge of a better representation of who and what gender Columbia’s greatest historical and contemporary advocates have traditionally been.
Given the lack of representation of women as subjects in the assemblage of mostly notorious figures on the grounds of SC Statehouse, these two works of public art, combined with artist Eileen Blyth’s Peace Pole and to the shimmering Her Heart created by Clay Wooten and dedicated to the late artist Anastasia Chernoff, these make a bit of a cultural step up on Columbia’s public art offerings.
With Mother’s Day approaching Sunday, however, it’s a great time to pay tribute to some of the women who were also mothers for whom we have to thank for their perseverance and dedication to the belief that Columbia could be a place of fairness and integrity.
Women like educator and librarian Ethel Bolden, mother of Colonel Charles Bolden Jr., who established the first elementary library in Columbia’s all-black public school system.
Women like Dr. Matilda Evans, a mother of at least 11 children, some from extended family and others from deceased patients – Dr. Evans was the first board-certified African-American female physician in South Carolina and established the city’s first free clinic. for African American children.
And women like Celia Dial Saxon, who was born into slavery before becoming a mother and educator, but still founded an orphanage for black children and more.
The list of powerful and unique contributions that change lives can go on and on if we just put pen to paper and do it.
Once again, I welcome our new sculpture, “Motherhood”, with the kind of open arms that motherly love can offer. But again, I also implore the powers that be to recognize the contributions the women of South Carolina have made to us and to honor the many mothers, the many women, like those listed above, with their own unique public art installations.
Cindi Boiter is a writer, editor and arts advocate. She is the founding editor of Jasper magazine and the literary journal Fall Lines and executive director of The Jasper Project.