Oakland-raised artist turns his attention to Black Lives Matter monument
NAPA, Calif. - A Bay Area sculptor, known for huge works of art, is turning his attention to Black Lives Matter.
Mario Chiodo created the massive 'Remember Them' monument in Oakland, unveiled in 2013.
In four sections, the exhibit stands 31 feet high and 52 feet long.
The artist's new project promises to be equally dramatic.
"I wanted to create something that was rising up," said Chiodo at his Napa studio.
A life-size clay model shows a tangle of arms reaching through a grate.
It is the hull of a slave ship.
"The hands are grasping for air," explained Ghiodo, "and this is the pain and suffering they had to go through."
Ghiodo employs stark realism in his work, aiming to be true to history.
"They were body-to-body chained together," continued Ghiodo, "and it was horrible, cruel, and a huge number of them died."
Other hands in the sculpture symbolize generations who came later, still reaching for resolution.
"So that's what I wanted to capture here, the reality of it, so we can't forget where they come from," said Ghiodo soberly.
The Oakland-raised sculptor has long-worked on African American themes.
He created a 4-ton bronze memorial that stands at a Virginia cemetery, where escaping slaves are buried.
He is at work on a Frederick Douglas statue, headed for Boston.
And in Delaware, his memorial to Harriet Tubman shows the fear and determination of those fleeing via the underground railroad.
"Telling history, whether it's beautiful or difficult, needs to be told," said Ghiodo.
"And not just walking by and seeing a plaque, I want people to feel it."
For a Black Lives Matter monument, he envisions the ship scene 30 feet tall, and alongside it an African woman, her arms stretched high toward peace and justice.
"I want to have a feeling of empowerment that the world is in your hands now, it's in all of our hands," said Chiodo.
His Remember Them monument features likenesses of 25 famed humanitarians, from Rosa Parks to Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller to Harvey Milk.
His new concept isn't about individuals.
"It's about justice- injustice- and going to a better place, said Chiodo.
"Because it seems like every time we take a baby step forward we take ten steps backward."
As someone who creates lasting work, the sculptor does not agree with the current trend of destroying historical statues that are deemed offensive.
"Learn from these monuments, whether we like them or not, and put them in their context," Chiodo urges.
"I would like people to know who the confederates were and what they did that was so wrong to our country."
Recently some sections of the Remember Them sculptures were vandalized with spray paint.
Chiodo is philosophical.
"There's a problem out there with equity and justice, and these are all symptoms of the problem."
Before he could remove the paint, someone did so anonymously, which restored his faith.
As he molds his new tribute to the ideals of Black Lives Matter, he hopes it will ultimately be installed where slave ships actually landed.
An East Coast city is interested, he said, but he can't disclose details.
And unlike Remember Them, which took 11 years to get from concept to completion, he expects his new commission will move faster.
"People are hungry for this, people are coming to me for this," said Chiodo, "and the bottom line is to inspire people."