More about Father Damien
Father Damien was a priest canonized by the Catholic Church and one of the few saints that received praise from Christians and non-Christians alike.
To summarize his saint-worthy efforts, he essentially spent sixteen years on a leper colony in Hawaii caring for the infected there before eventually dying of the disease himself. His sacrifice has become a beloved part of Hawaiian history, and he is generally recognized as a hero wherever his story is told. After Hawaii became a state in 1959, legislators started planning what two important Hawaiian figures would represent the state in the US Capitol Building's National Statuary Hall Collection. The Young Men’s Institute, a Catholic-based organization, was an early proponent of a statue honoring Father Damien. Opponents felt Father Damien wasn't appropriate for the honor as he wasn't a native-born or naturalized resident of Hawaii and he was a priest. Ultimately, King Kamehameha I and Father Damien were chosen as the two representatives for Hawaii. Of the decision, Gov. John A.Burns said, “Father Damien truly symbolizes the Hawaiian spirit of Aloha, which infuses all who come to these islands.”
Marisol Escobar, who, like Beyoncé, is known professionally on a first name basis as Marisol, was among seven artists who were invited to submit scale models of their vision for the Father Damien statue. Her oddly boxy and, frankly unflattering, depiction of an aged and scared man went up against a more traditional image of a young Father Damien with a child. Committee member Carl Farden said of the decision to pick Marisol's statue, “a little more abstract, but the sense is so simple; it’s solid, stout and stubborn — which Father Damien was.” The Hawaiian Senate said the statue would, “impress the viewer not only with the temperament, character and greatness of the man it represents, but also provide an unforgettable visual experience.” They approved the work and paid $73,350 for two 7-foot casts. One can't help but feel like they were going for the 'it's so ugly you can't look away' argument.
But oh-my-goodness. Whatever blessings God gave to Father Damien did not in any way get passed on to his statue. I have never heard of a piece of art that saw nearly as much trouble as this piece had. Just to get it made Marisol had to create not one, not two, but three molds of her original wood carving. The first plaster mold was broken on its way to be cast in Italy, the second mold was lost (the cast is at least seven feet tall by the way), and the final wax mold was then used to create two bronze casts. This statue was then delayed in New York due to a longshoreman strike, though the other statue bound for Washington arrived with no issues.
But that does not seem to be the end of this statue's bad luck. In July 2020, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the version of this statue in the US Capitol to demonstrate the patriarchal and racist biases that are present in the telling of the history of the United States. And to be fair she is right. But the fact that his statue, the only work in National Statuary Hall that represents a literal saint, was the one to incur her criticism seems like a bit of an amazing coincidence. This is taking into consideration that she lives in America, the home of undeserved statues of racist patriarchs, and had literally countless other statues to rail against. Makes one think that some higher power doesn’t want this statue to stay standing, and I think it's fair to assume that the higher power is not the benevolent one. Just saying…
It should be noted that this statue has holes where Damien’s eyes would peer out from his glasses mirrors the man's most otherworldly thousand-yard stare. I strongly advise googling a picture of him, if for no other reason than to see what I am talking about.
- Hadro, Matt “After AOC decries statue, Hawaiian Catholic says St Damien of Molokai 'gave his life' serving lepers” Catholic News Agency 07/31/2020 https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/after-aoc-decries-statue-hawaii…
- LANGE, ANTHONY C.“Square, bronze Father Damien stands out” The Hill 03/24/10 https://thehill.com/capital-living/tales-of-capitol-art/88951-square-br…
- Website Contributor “Father Damien” Architect of the Capitol viewed on 09/25/2020 https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/father-damien
- Magazine Contributor “The story of the statue: How Father Damien’s capitol sculpture came to be” The Hawaii Catholic Harold 08/04/2020 https://www.hawaiicatholicherald.com/2020/08/04/the-story-of-the-statue…
Here is what Wikipedia says about Statue of Father Damien
The Father Damien Statue, also called the Saint Damien of Molokaʻi Statue, is the centerpiece of the entrance to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol and the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. A second bronze cast is displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol, along with the Kamehameha Statue. The landmark memorializes the famous Hawaiʻi Catholic Church priest from Belgium who sacrificed his life for the lepers of the island of Molokaʻi. Father Damien is considered one of the preeminent heroes of Hawaiʻi, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009. Cast in bronze, the statue depicts Father Damien in his later years after being diagnosed with the disease of those he attended. Much attention was given to the recreation of the disfiguring scars on the priest's face and his arm hanging from a sling.
Check out the full Wikipedia article about Statue of Father Damien