Accessing Art as an Amateur: Charles Dickson
A work is sculpture that exists in my local area is piece located in the city of Watts California and is near the world famous Watts towers which is also an great sculpture piece. The particular work of art that I’m speaking about is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial art piece created by sculptor Charles Dickson.
I’m originally from Los Angeles and frequent that area because I have family members living in the area so I’ve been walking past that sculpture my whole childhood. It’s a grand, 8 x 10 foot piece that features a cast iron hand stretched out with a bird flying out (a dove to represent peace, I believe). It’s set upon a structure that’s shaped like a sermon pulpit like one you’d find in a church which is significant because King was a Baptist minister and the Black Church was especially visible in the civil rights era. What is also important is the vicinity of the art piece to several local churches in the area: I would estimate between 30–50 churches.
Inside the “pulpit” is the “I have a Dream” speech engraved in it’s entirety. On the outside of the lower structure in a white stone material is a closeup of people marching arm in arm: all shoulders and hands visible marching with each other, holding small children, books, umbrella and each other. It’s a phenomenal piece that people often walk past and not see.
But it stands in a plaza which is bordered by streets that held the aftermath of The Watts Riots of 1965, one event in a decade of civil unrest that King spoke intimately about and sought to help those caught up in it and those having the live through the living conditions that created it.
I had a chance to meet the master sculptor Charles Dickson on two occasions and it was his tribute to the slain civil rights advocate from his community. At the time of it’s creation and it’s installation back in 1992, it was the first memorial of the sculptor medium as memory to King in the Los Angeles area and if I’m not mistaken it still is. The last descriptive thing I’ll add about is under the “I have a dream” speech is the actual size footprints of the man himself where you stand in them and image yourself standing before the masses and delivering the iconic speech that he was known for. It’s one thing to observe a piece of art your whole childhood and then observe it again as a adult with a better understanding of the world in which the artist of the particular piece found it was necessary to create.
As an adult I see how necessary people like King were to change the world as it was and how fitting is that I would I would later meet the artist who would his struggles in getting the art installed and how much it warms his heart to still see it standing in a community know for its resilience
All photography by Carrie McClain. Please don’t use without permission!