"I wanted to create a sculpture almost anyone, regardless of their background, could look at and instantly recognize that it is about the idea of struggling to break free. This sculpture is about the struggle for achievement of freedom through the creative process."
- Zenos Frudakis
Freedom Sculpture Specifications
Size: 20 feet long x 8 feet high
Weight: 7,000 pounds
Sculptor: Zenos Frudakis
Date of Dedication: June 18, 2001
Location: 16th and Vine Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Although for me, this feeling sprang from a particular personal situation, I was conscious that it was a universal desire with almost everyone; that need to escape from some situation—be it an internal struggle or an adversarial circumstance, and to be free from it.
I began this work in a very traditional sculptural manner by creating a small model in clay called a macquette. The purpose of beginning in this manner is to capture the large action and major proportions of the figure within the overall design without any details to detract from the big idea. Another reason for not having details and for working on a small model only a few inches in height is that the small armature within it, holding the clay, is more easily manipulated, allowing for much greater flexibility in developing a concept. For example, an arm, a leg or a head can be pushed around without any concern for obliterating details, such as a nose or a finger.
The macquette is the original mass of clay where a concept is born and from which it grows and develops. This was important later when I enlarged the sculpture from several inches long to 20 feet long, and I retained in the larger work a sense that all the conceptual material, its forms, focus and development sprang from this rough idea. The work metamorphosized, in the way that we do.
Although there are four figures represented, the work is really one figure moving from left to right. The composition develops from left to right beginning with a kind of mummy/death like captive figure locked into its background. In the second frame, the figure, reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Rebellious Slave, begins to stir and struggle to escape. The figure in the third frame has torn himself from the wall that held him captive and is stepping out, reaching for freedom. In the fourth frame, the figure is entirely free, victorious, arms outstretched, completely away from the wall and from the grave space he left behind. He evokes an escape from his own mortality.
In working on the large scale sculpture, I was satisfied that those who drove by getting a quick look at it would see the big picture: that it was about escape. I was also concerned that those who worked in the building and who passed the sculpture frequently would have something more to see. There was a lot of empty space between the figures on the wall, which I saw as an opportunity to develop further ideas.
It was important to me that the sculpture have more than one theme going on at once. One of the other major ideas incorporated in the work is that the very process of creating the sculpture is clearly revealed in the work itself. The maquette is cast into the sculpture in the lower left hand corner. In the lower right corner is the cast of the sculptor’s hand holding the sculpture tool with two rolls of clay also cast in bronze. Throughout the background of the Wall, I have rolled out the clay and pressed it with my fingers so that my fingerprints are all over the sculpture. I have not hidden how I have made the piece. In fact, the whole idea of the macquette is enlarged so that all the figures in the background look like a giant macquette. And at the same time, as the figures move from left to right, I have shown how figures are developed when you are sculpting from the rough to the more finished product.
Elements of the sculpture trade beside the tools that are cast into the sculpture are calipers both for their use in measuring and their reference to Protagoras’ words “Man is the measure of all things.”
Also cast into the sculpture is an anatomical man, traditionally used as a reference by sculptors. Many of the heads and figures on the wall, some in the round and some in relief, are shown partially sculpted, revealing the process of creation.
Something else I have done with the sculpture is that I have created a one man show of my work. I have always admired Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I similarly thought I would incorporate many sculptures into the wall where it was suitable.
Like T.S. Eliot and other artists, I have put many personal elements in my work. My friend Philip, a sculptor who died of AIDS, created a work that I included in Freedom because he often expressed his wish to have it in a public space. He did not live long enough to accomplish this himself. My cat, who lived with me for 20 years, my mother, father, and my self portrait are in the work. It is obvious which face is mine because there is a ballooned phrase coming from my mouth with the word “freedom”, written backwards, making it clear that the face was sculpted in a mirror. I see the whole Wall sculpture as a kind of illusion akin to Alice’s Through the Looking Glass.
The sculpture contains an original Duane Hanson— a bronze cast of my own hands that Duane cast for me as a gift.
Much of what I did with this sculpture has to do with taking traditional forms and combining them in non-traditional ways, forming a postmodern sensibility. For example, I dropped a wax cast of my father’s bust from two or three feet in height so that it broke into large pieces. I cast those into the wall in a fractured manner over another face, an old work I found in a vat of clay purchased from a sculptor who had long ago died.
I have hidden many things in the background for people who see the sculpture more than once to discover, such as a cast of coins—a nickel and two pennies, another nickel and two pennies, and two quarters and a penny. These represent not only the relationship between money and art, but the numerals 7-7-51, my birth date.
It is important to me that the public interact with the sculpture, not just intellectually and emotionally but physically. I have created a space in which I have written “stand here” so that people can place themselves inside the sculpture and become part of the composition.
In the end, this sculpture is a statement about the artist’s attempt to free himself from the constraints of mortality through a long lasting creative form.
Vocalist: NINA SIMONE, I wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
Freedom Sculpture Videos on YouTube:
- "Freedom" by Zenos Frudakis, Music by Zoë Keating
Vocalist: NINA SIMONE, I wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
- 'Freedom' sculpture by Zenos Frudakis
- FREEDOM Breaking Loose From the Mold Thru Creativity
In the Media:
Comments on Freedom Sculpture
The following are a few of the hundreds of emails and online comments we have received about the Freedom sculpture—representing the diversity of content and locations. All of the messages have been read, and each is respected and valued. The personal comments reveal both the universal qualities represented by the sculpture as well as the unique life experiences of each person. Your messages continue to give shape, meaning and new dimensions to the Freedom sculpture.
"I just recently saw a small picture of Zenos Frudakis sculpture 'Freedom', in Philadelphia. For both me and my wife this represents our life, and our struggle to 'free' ourselves from troubled childhoods and a troubled past. Ever since I saw the picture I have been trying to find a high quality image of the sculpture, because I want to print and frame it—as a constant reminder of why the struggle is worth it." - Norway
You work "Freedom" instantly made me cry! I love it and recognize it so well. The different stages are so appropriate for the human condition as we each evolve and free ourselves at different times. I just had to have it so I ordered a poster not being able to commission a work myself! GOD BLESS you and your wonderful hands. - United States
“In Philadelphia everything breathes free. Not only is the Liberty Bell here. In 2000 sculptor Zenos Frudakis glorified freedom by showing bronze people trying to tear themselves away from the wall of a building. In fact, the urban sculpture depicts one man who step by step is separating himself from a gray mass of faces, arms, and legs.
Chekhov squeezed the slave out of himself drop by drop. Frudakis’ character tears himself piece by piece from a wall in which he is only a brick (or rather, another more amorphous building material). The composition develops from left to right, beginning with a mummy encased in the wall. In the work there are references to other works. This author recognized that the second left figure was created with the influence of Michelangelo’s 'Rebellious Slave.' ” - Russia
I hope some day Kurdish government buy the 'Freedom' sculpture and place it in Kobani. This is what your art mean to us. - Kobani
Until today, I had never encountered your work. I am in public education in the San Francisco Bay Area. I saw "Freedom" via a Facebook post, and was simply enthralled... Simply put, it is all amazingly creative, awe-inspiring and breath taking.
I work in a school that has students with great challenges from language learners to those who are in low-socio-econonmic situations. Freedom spoke to me about the vision they need to make a difference in their lives and their communities. Most of them have no vision of the future, themselves or their future. Last year, when I asked one student what they wanted to do with their future, their honest answer was, "be an average guy." I emailed a link to your "Freedom" sculpture to my principal who is visiting her family in Pennsylvania this week. I hope she will be able to visit your sculpture. - United States
I saw a foto of your "Freedom" sculpture on Facebook and was instantly fascinated by the explanatory power of your work. - Austria
I just discovered your Freedom sculpture (on the internet). And I am left speechless by its incredible power and uniqueness.
I am in awe, that a human being managed to capture and express the Human Spirit and Struggle in such an intense, profound, dynamic, and tangible way - AND all this in a sculpture, which, by definition, is static.
For me, this creation of yours touches the realm which resides beyond words or definitions, including calling it "art." Its primal quality puts it on the plane of genesis. - Israel
I just want to congratulate you about your work. When I saw “Freedom” I stayed with my mouth open for almost an hour.
I live in Athens and in this difficult for our country time I felt so proud for you.
Thank you for reminding us with your art (all the Greeks around the world ) that we still have people to make us proud around the world. - Greece
Every semester, I take my English classes to see and write about your amazing sculpture... Seeing and writing about your sculpture is, without doubt, the best assignment of every semester. I never tire of watching students explore the wall for the first time, stand in the empty space, and measure themselves against the figure on the sidewalk. No doubt, you can tell, I think the sculpture is wonderful...an endless text to be read and reread. - United States
I write to you to express how much I am impressed by the beauty of your works and sculpture, specially the ‘Freedom Sculpture,’ it's really a master piece. Why don't you visit Dubai and do special artwork. - Dubai
I found this photo of your sculpture Freedom on internet. I work for World Wide Fund for Nature WWF struggling to find a suitable illustration for the cover to our report about entrepreneurship and sustainable development in Swedish education system. For me the sculpture expresses creativity needed for sustainable development and a living planet. - Sweden
I still love this sculpture and have my own image of it up on my vision board for inspiration. The image is so powerful to me as it completely reflects the work I do to help people heal emotionally. - United States
I just wanted to share something with you and with the Artist who created the ‘’Freedom Sculpture.” I’ve gone through some incredibly painful situations in my life in last two years: cancer, divorce, domestic violence, homelessness, relapsing, rejection and an attempt to take my own life. I’ve struggled for the past eight weeks like I’ve never done before (intense inner child therapy, 12-step meetings, prayers and a spirit that won’t stop moving forward). My whole world turned upside down, but I continued to show up at work and in life. I made a conscious and deliberate decision not to turn back—no matter what. My co-worker emailed me a picture of the sculpture today, saying that it reminded her of me, and just how far I’ve come in eight weeks. It touched me so profoundly that I cried my eyes out. I just wanted you to know that I was touched and am seriously moved by this piece of art because it is me (although I am female), and then I read what the Artist wrote in regards to the master piece that he created and knew what he was telling me….my story. Thank you for gifting me with this day….what a wondrous day it is. - United States