Wilson's relationship with the city of Indianapolis dates back to 1993, when he created a show entitled "The Spiral of Art History" at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This exhibition brought him into contact with the city's vast collection of war memorials (second only to Washington, D.C.).
When he was approached about a commission for the Cultural Trail in 2007, Wilson recalled one of our downtown monuments, which at the time was the only monument featuring a person of color: the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument that sits at the heart of the city on Monument Circle. The figure on that monument -- an African-American figure-- is forever frozen in time as a freed image sitting half-clothed on the ground with his hands raised up with broken shackles.
Prior to the Glick Peace Walk's dedication in June 2010 with a sculpture honoring Booker T. Washington, this figure was the only monumental representation of African-Americans visible to the hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents in downtown Indianapolis. His artwork was commissioned following recommendations made by the Cultural Trail Curatorial Advisory Committee, which was comprised of local curators of contemporary art, local artists, and relevant design professionals.
The project is entitled E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One), and Wilson now wants to tell that figure's story of triumph in a more prominent way, one where residents and visitors alike can continue the dialogue together.
He is known for “repurposing” icons and artifacts in order to create new perspectives and meanings, and to help people see those artifacts in a different way, as he intends to do with E Pluribus Unum.
Taking that image to a more upright position, Wilson proposes recreating the image in Indiana limestone. The figure will be holding a flag of Wilson's design representing the African Diaspora. Significantly, this is the first time in Wilson's career that he will be "mining" the public monuments of a city and creating a new permanent public art installation.
The project was originally to be located on the front plaza of the City-County Building in conjunction with a nearby section of the Cultural Trail. Now, organizers are seeking feedback from the public on the proposal itself and a potential location.
One of the first questions Wilson's work posed for organizers of the Cultural Trail was, "How can the Cultural Trail profess to be a project about positioning Indianapolis in the 21st century if our downtown art collection lacks representation of African-Americans?" Our answer was, "We cannot." By enabling this commission, the Cultural Trail supports the expansion of a permanent art collection that speaks to diverse audiences and that enhances our city's creative environment with a project that is long overdue.