MLK Jr. Day | John Woodrow Wilson – Printmaker, Sculptor, Painter

1. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” 2002; 2. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” 1987; 3. John Woodrow Wilson with his maquette of MLK in 1997 (Barry Chin, The Boston Globe)

As the years roll by since his tragic assassination, we have seen gorgeous, poignant, and even light-hearted images of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We use these images, especially on his national holiday, to remember his efforts to dismantle the oppressive plight of black folks and humanity-at-large.

My favorite images of him are actually not photographs, but the works of the artist, John Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a phenomenal draftsman and sculptor and his depictions of MLK are just a few of his most inspired works.

In 1986, Wilson was commissioned to create a 3-foot-tall, bronze bust of the legendary reverend and activist for the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.; and it is noted as being Wilson’s most viewed work. He also designed a large maquette of MLK that evokes the mysticism and power of a Mayan Olmec head.

Wilson passed away on January 22, 2015 at the age of 92, leaving behind a body of work that should be studied and respected for years to come. May he and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continue to rest in eternal power and peace.

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