New artwork at Martin Luther King Park in San Antonio reflects ideas of civil rights leader

Kaldric Dow saw something during a college visit to a Houston museum that stopped him in his tracks and helped shape the path he later blazed as an artist.

“I saw a lot of amazing things, but it was a lot of Eurocentric stuff,” Dow, 31, recalled. “Then when we were leaving I saw this huge painting of this African American man, all by himself, but the way he dressed reminded me of myself and my family. It was massive and I felt represented there, even if it wasn’t me or someone I knew.

“I wouldn’t say that I went home and started painting immediately, because it took me years to start painting, but that idea stuck with me for years and years. That’s why I do portraits of African Americans now.

This desire to give others the same powerful feeling of seeing themselves in a work of art also inspired Dow’s first three-dimensional coin. “Spheres of Reflection,” a dramatic sculpture that was installed in Martin Luther King Park in December as part of the city’s public art program, is rooted in portraiture.

“Spheres of Reflection,” a public artwork by San Antonio artist Kaldric Dow, features reflective spheres bearing words Martin Luther King Jr. often used in his writings.

Josie Norris /San Antonio Express-News

The 16.5-foot-tall steel artwork features a brown face topped by a tower of dark reflective spheres meant to suggest hair. Each sphere bears a single word – gratitude, dedication, change, dream and sincerity – which Martin Luther King Jr. often used in his writings.

“The idea was to sort of merge the ideology of Martin Luther King with the design that I created,” Dow said. “I understood that he was talking about self-reflection, seeking change within yourself.”

He wanted the spheres to be both literally and figuratively reflective to those looking at them.

The artist Kaldric Dow, known for his portraits, works in his studio in San Antonio.

The artist Kaldric Dow, known for his portraits, works in his studio in San Antonio.

Josie Norris /San Antonio Express-News

“In the spheres, they look at themselves and their surroundings, but they also see texts like ‘dream’ or ‘bold’ or ‘unity’, and then they can reflect on their own life, how they can connect that word with their own lives,” he said.

The placement of the coin could also have an impact, he said.

“It’s right in front of a Boys & Girls Club and the MLK Academy, so if I can inspire kids to see what I saw at that age, I think it will create a lot of artists or people who think about representation,” he said.

Dow had not actively sought to move into three-dimensional work, but when the city’s Department of Arts and Culture invited him to design a piece for East Side Park and offered to guide him through Throughout the process, he was excited about the possibilities.

“They helped me tremendously to build this because they had to contact the engineers to work with and then the manufacturers to build it,” he said.

Community feedback was a big part of the process early on, said Krystal Jones, the department’s acting executive director. This included asking people what they wanted from the artwork.

Artist Kaldric Dow, known for his portraits, is pictured in his studio in San Antonio.

Artist Kaldric Dow, known for his portraits, is pictured in his studio in San Antonio.

Josie Norris /San Antonio Express-News

“People said they really wanted to see something that connects to the history of San Antonio, the history of civil rights, the history of the East Side, something that really pays homage to the African-American culture,” Jones said.

She said she had long admired Dow’s portrayals and was impressed with “Spheres of Reflection”.

“I really love that he brings his contemporary flair and makes you think about the topics he’s discussing across the room in a new way,” she said.

Dow would like to do more public art in the future.

“It’s great to be able to switch as an artist between different mediums, from 2D to 3D,” he said. “As artists, we want to diversify how we create, and I think with the city offering this program, they make it easier for 2D artists to create in 3D, which is extremely difficult for you as an artist for the first times. .

“But I really want to do more.”

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