Some Thoughts on the MLK Memorial

The MLK memorial:

An interesting monument, is it not? I have never thought it looked much like King. Except in a general sense.




The same basic features, but not quite identical. There is a lack of the minute modulations of form that capture the likeness of the individual. The forehead eyebrows and cheeks are not quite right. The fullness of the lips not properly contoured. The monument looks a little like King, in a generic “black men look alike” kind of way. The same basic facial type. But the sculptor has not captured the character of his subject. Interestingly enough the facial structure, the cheeks and eyes,  resembles more closely the actor who portrays King in the movie Selma.

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King in Selma

The actor, David Oyelowo , as King.

I have a theory about that, though that’s not the topic of this post. It’s a phenomenon that causes people of one race to think that people of another look alike. It’s because we are all more attuned to the subtle facial variations of those who are within our own sphere of social interactions, largely people of the same race. Generally speaking. And I think that accounts, to some degree, for this artist’s inability to accurately capture the likeness of his subject. He doesn’t have enough sensitivity to black facial features. As I say, it’s a type of face. And it sort of resembles King. But really, like those  comedic impersonators whose imitations are so bad you only know who they are impersonating because they tell you, if I didn’t know beforehand that this face represented Martin Luther King, I would not make the assumption.

Okay. I’ll stop here. Next up is to look briefly at the artist that designed the monument. It is very consistent with his previous work. And obviously the people who planned and funded the project knew the kind of monuments he has produced in the past and wanted the one to King to be similar.



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