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Attendees react to ‘Rumors of War’ unveiling in Richmond: ‘It was breathtaking’

Posted: 7:04 PM, Dec 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-11 07:16:05-05
Attendees react to ‘Rumors of War’ unveiling in Richmond: ‘It was breathtaking’

RICHMOND, Va. — “Magnificent."

"It’s meaningful, it’s impacting."

"It shows a transition and a change."

Those were just some of the ways Kehinde Wiley’s statue “Rumors of War” was described by people who attended its unveiling at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Tuesday.

One of those attendees was Patricia Bates from Petersburg. She also attended the statue’s unveiling during its stint in Times Square in New York City earlier this year and even got to meet Wiley.

“He gave me a hug and a kiss and everything,” added Bates. “It was just terrific. I have been following Kehinde since he first put his works in the Virginia museum. Then I followed him to his show in the summer of 2016 at the Virginia museum. So, for my birthday I said, ‘I’m going to follow this thing all the way out.’ So, I went to the Portrait Gallery to see the Obama portrait and from Obama’s portrait I went to Times Square and I told him [Wiley] I would be here for the unveiling in Richmond.”

Patricia Bates

Bates, a former art teacher, said the statue meant a lot to her.

“It shows a transition and a change,” said Bates. “I remember as a little girl I used to color the characters in with brown crayon to make them look like they were people of color and when I first saw him transpose his paintings and actually did the portrayal of blacks in history, it means a lot for me to see the transition.”

Another attendee, Nadine Bonner from Chester, said 6 she also saw the statue in New York City.

"I came out of a Broadway show and I came out and was, like, ‘Wow, the statue’s here,’” said Bonner. “It was phenomenal, it was just, seeing the statue and, I don’t know, it just gave me a lot of pride, a lot of hope. It was awesome. Beautiful experience.”

As to the statue making its permanent home in Richmond, Bonner said she felt it was a very good place for it.

“It will add to what we already have here. Include all history. Not just one part of history, including all history and all people that were involved,” added Bonner. “It gives children and other African-American people saying I can identify something that’s of me on a statue. As well as Confederate heroes, we have our own heroes as well.”

Bonner referencing Confederate monuments lining Monument Avenue in Richmond, a point that other attendees mentioned.

“It appeals to my sense of humor that we’re going to have this statue here within sight of the one down there and it’s a great juxtaposition,” said Tricia McDaniel, a VMFA member from Hanover.

‘Rumors of War’ finally unveiled 

"Rumors of War," a monument depicting a young, African-American man sitting on a horse, was partially unveiled Tuesday outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Following speeches by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, and artist Kehinde Wiley, the tarp covering the 29-foot statue would not come off cleanly.

After several minutes worth of attempts, the gathered crowed was told to go inside the museum and celebrate while a lift was called in to finish the job.

At about 5:15 p.m., a work crew eventually got the tarp removed.

Rumors of War

Modeled after the statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, artist Kehinde Wiley was inspired to create the work of art during a 2016 visit to Richmond.

"There's something moving in the culture. There's something changing in the winds," Wiley said prior to the unveiling.

Wiley hopes that his work of art will help viewers engage with difficult questions regarding race, power, and public monuments.

"Things need to be updated. What I’ve done in my work and what I’ve done throughout my entire career has been to take an ancient and respected language and to try to find people who happen to look like me and put them in that context," Wiley said . "It’s about cultural appropriation from the past. It’s about temporal appropriation from the past, but it’s also about a deep and overwhelming respect for the present."