The Lee Monument was being planned even before Robert E. Lee died, even though Lee was against erecting monuments to the Confederacy. The monument cost $77,000 and took 20 years to complete (Including fundraising). Erected in 1890, it was the first of five Confederate statutes that would be erected on the future Monument Avenue.
This image is from a photograph I took on August 5, 2020. As time went on, paint went on top of paint, and spawned several generations of graffiti in a short period of time.
The Lee Monument was erected into what was then a tobacco field. It was the perfect draw for the development of new homes that would become the far West End of Richmond at that time. Within 39 years, the Avenue added the monuments of Stuart, Jackson, Davis and Maury. The last monument erected was to Arthur Ashe in 1996, provoking much controversy, because he was NOT a Confederate ‘hero’. I’m sure it wasn’t because he was Black…
This is from a visit to the monument on June 12, 2020, Just weeks after the murder of George Floyd. It is actually the first painting I did, and my favorite. I love how the ink ran.
Following the murder of George Floyd, protests in Richmond, Virginia erupted that lasted for months. While Richmond had seen many protests in the past, THIS TIME a combination of lockdown from a deadly pandemic, and businesses and schools being closed provided something the other occasions had not—time. Time for a determined citizenship to maintain sustained pressure on government officials to do what they had only promised many times before: take down the monuments.
This is from the first visit I made to the monument during the protests, on June 12, 2020. By this time, the circle had been renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle, and the monument was encircled by placards with the names of persons murdered by the police.
The backside of the Lee Monument. Because Lee said he would never turn his back on the South, his monument faces the South, while the 2 other Confederate Generals face the North, as if to be protecting Richmond from Union invasion—at least that is what I learned growing up. It was difficult to decide whether to title this “No Hate”, or “Vote”.
This photo was taken Jun 12, 2020, but within a few months a giant Smiley Face had been painted within the cartouche at this end of the pedestal. Later, the mouth was altered to be grotesque.
This image was actually inspired by the night view of the statue, when I visited the site to watch an evening light show on July 21, 2020. It was a very dramatic sky, but I decided I wanted to do a daytime scene, so I went through my photos to see if I had one or more images that I could use in that way. I did, from August 6, 2021. By that time Marcus-David Peters Circle had a fence surrounding it. At the opposite end of the pedestal was the label “traitor”. This view is from the east.
The placards and flower offerings remained, as did the garden and rose bushes. I was sorry to see the portable basketball hoops removed. They represented part of what the circle had become—a place of gathering.
I love this particular angle view. The placard was up by June 12 or before, but was down by July 7, 2020. This painting has caused the most concern (if you could call it that) because of the word “F*ck” in such a prominant and ‘in-your-face’ position. I don’t even know if they realized it was really “F*ck 12”. It was all about the F-word. Nevertheless, the sign was prophetic—it did come down, even though it was the last (except for the Hill monument).
This is also from my visit to the Marcus-David Peters Circle on June 12, 2020.
These are miniature paintings I did with pen, egg tempera, and gouache on gessoed hardboard during November, 2021. They are painted from photographs I took between June 2020 and August 2021.
Lee Monument 2.0
#1 Lee Monument 2.0—Everyone Is A Star
#2 Lee Monument 2.0—BLM
#3 Lee Monument 2.0—I Love You
#4 Lee Monument 2.0—No Hate
#5 Lee Monument 2.0—Unity
#6 Lee Monument 2.0—Tear It Down
Every___ Is a Star, 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard
No Hate, 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard
The New York Times declared the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Virginia, in its current form (before disassembly took place) "the most influential protest art of the post-World War II era".
Read more about painting with egg tempera
Currently these originals are at Crossroads Art Center, in my show, "Unfinished Business",
through June 20, 2022
Prints of these will be available soon.
Unity, 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard
Tear It Down 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard
BLM, 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard
I Love You, 7x5", pen, egg tempera, gouache on gessoed hardboard