Suburban sculptor designs massive Sept. 11 tribute
He's sculpted Wayne Gretzky and Rosa Parks, elephants and globes.
Yet, the massive new Sept. 11 tribute sculpture by renowned Crystal Lake artist Erik Blome proved to be one of his most challenging.
Other work by Erik Blome
Examples of art by Crystal Lake sculptor Erik Blome are all over the suburbs — and the nation — including:
Waukegan — Jack Benny sculpture near the Genesee Theatre
Cary — Memorial for Fox River Grove bus accident victims at
Cary-Grove High School
Mount Prospect — "Peace globe" in front of the Mount Prospect Public Library
Libertyville — Giant bronze fountain and all of the bronze sculptures in the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Independence Grove
Aurora — Bronze WPA worker in Phillips Park
Chicago — Bronze Blackhawks statue in front of the United Center; bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable on North Michigan Avenue.
Nationally: Martin Luther King Jr. statue in downtown Milwaukee; sculptures of Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya at the Staples Center in Los Angeles; Rosa Parks sculptures in downtown Dallas, downtown Montgomery, Ala., and downtown Lafayette, La.
For a complete gallery, see www.figurativeartstudio.com
The sculpture will be mounted today in Oak Lawn in anticipation of the village's Sept. 11 10-year anniversary ceremony. There's also buzz that Blome's 22-foot-tall, 2-ton sculpture will be taken to Soldier Field for a Sept. 11 tribute during the Chicago Bears season opener, but Blome said Wednesday nothing has been confirmed.
Blome's challenge with this sculpture was to incorporate four, twisted, 8-foot-tall "tortured looking" beams from the World Trade Center into the piece, and also capture the emotion of that fateful day with an appropriate tone.
"It's a hard subject, because you don't want to be too gory or offensive or depressing. I didn't want to commemorate the tragedy of 9/11; I wanted to commemorate the people of that day," Blome said. "That's what 9/11 does to you. You reinterpret and re-evaluate everything."
Blome ultimately designed two, 14-foot-tall bronze spires, with 30 separate sections, or stelae, on each one. The spires will be mounted on top of the 8-foot-tall World Trade Center beams.
The stelae feature different textures, imprints of World Trade Center architecture, or three-dimensional faces or objects. Each spire is topped with a set of wings that could belong to an eagle or an angel.
One panel shows two hands holding each other, because Blome said "a lot of people held hands that day, sometimes with people they didn't even know." Another part shows two hands reaching for each other but not quite touching — representing either loss or help, depending on how you interpret it.
A lone firefighter hat sits on one stela, and another shows a man covering his face with a cloth to convey the dust that swirled around ground zero.
"The more you look at it, the more things you see," said Blome's wife, Charlotte. "Everyone's going to find something in it that has meaning to them, and I think it's a very moving piece of artwork for that reason."
Blome did the work — normally a 1˝-year project — in just six months with help from his assistant, Harper College graduate and Iraq War veteran Phil Bassak of Chicago.
The $100,000 project was commissioned by the Oak Lawn Rotary, which decided it wanted to create a public art display at its Metra station to honor its police and firefighters. The group held fundraisers big and small to privately fund the project.
A local Marine, Lt. Art Clark, worked tirelessly to help the village obtain the four World Trade Center beams but has since been redeployed to Afghanistan and won't at the Sept. 11 dedication ceremony.
Sandra Bury, an optometrist who's the Oak Lawn Rotary's fundraising chairman, said they chose Blome for the project because he'd received a Rotary Ambassador Scholarship and they were impressed with his work.
"When you look at Erik and the type of work he's done, there's no one better," she said.
After the sculpture's dedication in Oak Lawn Sept. 11, Blome, 43, is headed for Haiti where he'll donate a copy of his Jean Baptiste Point DuSable bust that's on Michigan Avenue in Chicago to a Haitian high school.
Then, since he just received a Fulbright Scholarship, he's headed to Egypt for a semester to study sculpture and art.
Blome's Sept. 11 sculpture has some personal meaning for his family. His brother was in the State Department building in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and Charlotte's sister watched the terrorist attacks from her living room window in Manhattan. Then, six months ago, the Blomes' house in California suffered a devastating fire.
"Our house literally would have burned all the way to the ground if the firefighters didn't stop it," Charlotte Blome said. "The job these men and women do is really amazing."
The sculpture's progress is being blogged about daily on monumentaloaklawn.com.
"The first responders don't always get the respect they deserve," Bury said. "I really do think this is something that's going to be timeless, and that the whole community can be proud of for generations."
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