February 11, 2017 - I had gone back to Washington D.C. with the End Hate doors to see if the toxic political climate had tainted the amazing atmosphere that I had experienced two years earlier. I had some down time on my hands the day before we set-up at the National Mall, so I made my way into the National Archives to see first hand the two most important documents in our country. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The experience was more than rewarding. Breathtaking is a better way to describe it.
While reading some of George Mason’s papers, I noticed a small paper illustration on display next to his material. It was from 1941-1945 and was distributed during a time when our country was fighting the dark cloud of tyranny. It stirred things deep inside of me and at that very moment I realized something. No matter how dire things appear at times, our country is set up to where no one person or political party can ever have enough power to destroy it as long as we keep these foundations intact. My spirit felt renewed, for this little illustration gave me back the one thing I had lost over the horrific election season and the never ending inundation of strife. It gave me hope.
I felt humbled and small standing inside that marble chamber looking at these historical archives, yet was overcome with emotion. I was more proud to be an American than I ever had been in my life and I found myself standing a little taller as I quietly walked around gazing in awe at the majestic architecture and the over 200 years of history that lay in front of me. I learned very quickly they don’t allow you to take photo’s inside the chamber but it didn’t matter. The image of those four powerful columns was burned forever into my brain and stayed with me as I walked down the cold windy street back to my hotel. In my quiet times it haunted me and I finally knew then that I wouldn’t be able to rest until I could create them. My hope was that if I could show others the image that literally shook me to the core in that hallowed chamber, it might calm the storms of turmoil and distrust we have with each other and remind us that we are more than just individuals. We are a united front and the keepers of something much more important. Freedom. And it’s not for the timid or lighthearted to preserve.
I finally found the image of the tiny illustration on the National Archives website, then set out to find the perfect columns to use. I searched and searched and finally found exactly what I needed. It then took me three months of negotiation to acquire them and a lot of effort and energy to move the ancient wood around but it finally all came together. I have over 210 hours of labor in this project with moving, prep, seal, repair, wood carving, painting and stabilizing. The columns are over 10 ft. tall and together they weigh over 550 lbs. Each wooden letter has been individually modified and re-formed to fit the curved base of the columns.
While working with the height, weight (and old lead paint) of 107 year old columns, two things are a definite must, safety and discipline, so I decided it was best to pull Civil Engineers and contractors in on the project for direction and guidance. Then in the middle of the face masks, gloves, eye protection, ladders and sealing of the columns to where they were finally safe to work with, I also made a personal decision. I knew that I needed to be physically and mentally fit for this enormous project so I gave up all alcohol, sugar and red meat while working the long 15-18 hour days. The weather was just too hot to consume these things and keep my energy level up, and to be honest it was also dangerous at times so I didn’t want to take any chances with being sluggish or foggy headed. The extra perk with that decision is that after several weeks, I can now run four flights of stairs and not get winded, I’ve lost 8 lbs. and I feel amazing. It’s been good to cleanse.
Lastly, I highly encourage anyone who has doubts or fears about our country ‘falling apart’ to make the trip to the National Archives. It will restore your faith in America and in humanity. We are all in this together and to let our individual differences pour out onto the streets of despair is fruitless. Remember we are the UNITED States, and while you’re at it, also remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin. “United we stand, divided we fall.” That man was no novice. He wasn’t kidding.
Stay strong and go shake your neighbor’s hand. Together you are the keepers of something very precious and you need each other more than you know.
Be good to one another. VL
THE FOUR PILLARS OF FREEDOM are comprised of wood, paint, and steel.
"THE FOUR PILLARS OF FREEDOM" Original 1910 Charles Thompson (historical architect) wooden columns 124" x 18" x 18" Mixed Media