July 2020 – September 2021
Exhibition culminates 40 years recognizing women, bringing this contemporary sculptor’s career full circle. Sculptor Alan LeQuire has spent the majority of his career honoring women by making portraits. A walk through his Nashville gallery and studio reveals a vast body of work, miniature to monumental in scale, in bronze, plaster and terra cotta. His colossal Athena Parthenos, the largest indoor sculpture in the western world, recreates one of the most important monumental goddess statues of all time, and five of his public monuments commemorate woman suffrage in the state that had the final vote to ratify the 19th Amendment. In the centennial year of woman suffrage a comprehensive exhibit was curated, cementing what LeQuire has been quietly suggesting and aiming for, for forty years.
Monumental Women premiered summer of 2020, peak time for historians and suffrage fans to celebrate the centennial. The exhibit includes plaster casts of more than a dozen of LeQuire’s twenty-plus suffrage portraits such as Ida. B. Wells, Carrie Chapman Catt, J. Frankie Pierce and Anne Dallas Dudley. While the exhibit intends a nod to the hundreds of suffrage heroines, the depth of Monumental Women is much broader.
“From the beginning of my training as a sculptor, the female figure has been the focus. Any possible form or texture can be found in the human body, and the magical configuration of forms in the female body can prompt an emotional reaction from almost anyone. That is why it is used in traditional academic training and why I continue to pursue an understanding of it even after years of sculpting. My teachers also sculpted the female figure, and when I work I feel connected to them and to other artists going back centuries. Early in my career I honed the skills to make portraits in clay and bronze. Noticing how few portraits of women existed in public spaces, I wanted to bridge that gap. I have had some wonderful clients who felt the same way. One of my first commissions was a life-size portrait of Margaret Branscomb for Vanderbilt University. The goal of honoring real women was interrupted to some extent when I won the competition to re-create Athena for the Parthenon in Nashville. She is an idealized figure, of course, and I was attempting to mimic the style of Pheidias, but I see the Athena statue as part of the same objective that I have had all along – to honor women. I think the statue of Athena, at 42 feet tall does that for the contemporary audience.
In 2016 we unveiled my Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville, which has heroic scale portraits of five women. It seemed appropriate to place these real women on the same grounds in Centennial Park with the Parthenon and Athena. They are a reminder of the importance of real women taking real political action, and for me a continuation of the goal of honoring all women”. – Alan LeQuire
Threaded in and among the intense and captivating presence of LeQuire’s suffragists are new works — examples of his Caryatids, Women in Drapery, and Women with Animals series, as well as previous works such as a bust of Nashville aviator, Cornelia Fort and LeQuire’s colossal scale portraits of blues icons Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. Many other female forms are on view — all unique with Alan LeQuire’s signature use of surface texture – all representing the strength, perseverance and physical beauty of women.
A 2016 Smithsonian Magazine feature focused on the lack of recognition of women: “When you walk the streets of cities like New York and Washington, D.C., it’s hard to miss the sculptures that mark the parks and neighborhoods. Historic figures often can be seen standing erect or sitting astride on their horses, stoically striking a pose. More often than not, these statues have another thing in common: their gender. The majority of public statues in the United States are of men”.
In 2016 alone, Alan LeQuire added 5 larger-than-life statues of women to the national equation in his Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument. He will unveil 5 more with the upcoming Equality Trailblazers Monument. Coming soon to Memphis.
For more information:
Equality Trailblazers Monument: https://tnwomansuffrageheritagetrail.com/events/
Alan LeQuire: https://alanlequire.com
Close To Home
By Lori Putnam
March 2021 – December 2021