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Master Sculptor Selected For Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


A master sculptor was recently selected to carve the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a memorial to the slain civil rights leader in Washington DC. VOA's Elaine Lu introduces us to Mr. Lei Yixin, master sculptor.

Lei Yixin is one of the most prominent sculptors in China. Some of his past works are in China's National Art Gallery collection. Touted as a national treasure in China, he feels very fortunate to be chosen to work on the monument.

"I am familiar with Martin Luther King,” he said. “I think it will be an extraordinary work. I have carved sculptures for many famous people in China. But when he [the executive architect of the project] talked about the location and showed me the drawings of the sculpture, I was overwhelmed -- this is such a great and important project!"

Architects with the memorial foundation sought out Lei after he was recommended by several of his peers. Before him, the foundation had conducted an extensive search in Italy, but few had Lei's experience with granite.

Dr. Ed Jackson, the executive architect at the foundation said, "We found a litany of individuals. We talked to many while we were there. They are great in those soft stones like limestone. We knew from the outset that we want this particular memorial to be in granite."

Dr. King's "Stone of Hope" statue will be carved out of granite from China's Fujian Province

Lei Yixin describes the material, "The stone is granite, it is very hard. The color is light beige, close to skin color. With the hardness of six-seven degrees, carving is very difficult, but once it is carved, it will be an artwork forever."

Lei's sculpture will be the centerpiece of the 1.6 hectare memorial, the first monument to an African-American to be built on the Washington Mall. Lei has put a lot of thought into the piece. "The most important element is the firmness. In organizing the civil rights movement, he [Dr. King] was arrested more than 30 times. Incarcerated, he did not give up his firm beliefs. So the sculpture has to capture that spirit. In addition, he empowers people; so when people look at the sculpture, it should symbolize Dr. King's inner strength."

The memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2008.