Nearly a century after Tennessee became the 36th state—the last state needed—to ratify the 19th Amendment giving all women the right to vote, HART alumnus and local sculptor Alan LeQuire will unveil his large-scale public monument to suffragists on Women’s Equality Day, Friday, August 26. The formal ceremony will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Centennial Park near the Parthenon, with a gallery and studio open house immediately following at the LeQuire Gallery, 4304 Charlotte Avenue, from 1-4 p.m.
This monumental bronze work features heroic-scale portraits of five women from across the state and country who were leading suffragists and fought valiantly in the final ratification battle in Nashville in August 1920: Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville, Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga, J. Frankie Pierce of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, and national suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt, who came to Tennessee to direct the pro-suffrage forces from the Hermitage Hotel. Portraits of contemporary leaders Jane Eskind, Lois DeBerry, and Beth Harwell appear on relief plaques.
“According to the Smithsonian, less than 8 percent of the portrait statues in the U.S. are of women,” LeQuire said. “I am very pleased that here in Nashville we will be bridging that gap with portraits in bronze honoring eight women.”
LeQuire’s initial training in sculpture was facilitated by such Nashville artists and family friends as Jim Leeson, Olen Bryant, and Vanderbilt sculptor and professor/mentor Puryear Mims. These early influences fueled his lifelong passion for sculpture. LeQuire was a pre-med student at Vanderbilt until he had the opportunity to study art and art history in France. “Basically that was me making the decision not to be a doctor. I could never stop sculpting—I was sculpting in my dorm room,” he said in an interview with the Nashville Arts Magazine (August 2016).
“I was not a natural sculptor; I’ve had to work at it. I’ve grown as an artist in my skill level. The goal is fluency, like learning a language.”
Known for such monumental works as the Athena Parthenos (1990) at the Parthenon and Musica (2003) near Music Row, LeQuire has also created portraits and figurative sculpture. He works mostly in clay, and many of his works are also cast in bronze. Musica, at the top of Demonbreun Street, is one of the largest cast-bronze figurative sculptures in the country.
LeQuire’s solo exhibition at his own LeQuire Gallery on Charlotte Avenue closes on Saturday afternoon, August 27. On view are drawings, watercolors, and portrait sculpture, as well as small to life-size figures in bronze and terracotta. In addition, the exhibit also features preparatory works from the suffragist monument, including maquettes and early models of the sculpture.
Suffrage maquette, clay