Last week, I was invited by my friends Sean and Stephanie at Good News in Oakland to meet local artist Mario Chiodo. Sean and Stephanie had been telling me about an art installation that Mario was creating, a monument to honor humanitarians that would be installed in Oakland. However, they insisted that I come to Mario's studio, because I needed to see it for myself to gain a sense of the scale of the project. After delaying several times (thanks to my hectic performance schedule and summer tour), I finally was able to make an appointment to visit Mario's studio, meet the artist and see his work in progress.
When I first arrived at the studio, Mario, some of the people who work in his studio and a representative from the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, greeted me and proceeded to share their enthusiasm and excitement about the project; with particular pride that it will inhabit an area in downtown Oakland. I watched a short video, which featured the always eloquent Maya Angelou expressing her impression of Mario's work (Ms. Angelou is one of the featured humanitarians in the monument).
After watching the video, I was lead to the back where all of the work was being done. The monument is massive; bronze, over 21 feet high, honoring 25 humanitarians from around the world. There is also a component for the visually impaired. Mario's own father lost his vision, and providing an opportunity for the visually impaired to experience his work was of great importance to Mario. I was able to touch the work with my hands, a tactile and infinitely detailed exploration of each of the people honored in the monument, simulating the experience that visually impaired people would have. Mario's work is beautiful: the massive size of the sculpted art structures nearly overwhelms; the faces, arms, hands and gestures that embody the essence of the honorees' spirits, are rendered in a form that, although static, has breath, movement and a powerful energy that was undeniable when I stood before them. I struggled to hold back the tears in my eyes.
The monument will be unveiled in Oakland on September 11, 2011. Read more about it on Mario's website:
Remember Them: Champions for Humanity