Morelli created “BEHOLD,” a monument inspired by the book “Roots” and dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has stood over King’s tomb in Atlanta, Ga. since 1990.
continued “Sculptors always think big but for a piece like this I really wanted a monumental presence, not just a small piece in a collection but something that would be situated in a culturally and historically significant place where it would be seen by people and be a real source of inspiration to people,” said Morelli.
He recreated a powerful moment from the book, “Roots,” where an African father presents his newborn son to Heaven and said, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.”
“It just really appealed to me as an artists because even though it’s inspired by an African ritual and might have special meaning to African Americans and Africans, the piece really transcends that,” said Morelli. “It’s a universal piece; a father’s hope for the future of his child, the suffering of the adult and vulnerability of the infant. Things that go far beyond race, ethnicity and nationality.”
Robert Parker, chief of interpretation, education and cultural resource management at King National Historic Site, said Morelli achieved his vision.
“It’s Dr. King’s vision of society for love, peace and justice for all and equality,” said Parker. “It really speaks to the community. … It’s a permanent memorial to King’s courage and vision.”
Morelli said he’s gotten letters and emails from people who have seen his piece.
“(They) express how moved they were by the piece, how meaningful it was. … It’s wonderful motivation to be able to do that,” said Morelli.
Based on the impact of his two sculptures, it seems like a lifetime of sculpting finally paid off for Morelli. But in reality, he had two full careers before becoming a sculptor.
“I got into it through the back door. … I did some teaching, then went into corporate business and actually worked in the World Trade Center,” said Morelli. “I gave it all up and took up sculpture.”
Morelli said he was happy with his “glamour job” that came with a sizeable paycheck, but he was “restless.”
“Something was not being said in what I was doing,” said Morelli. “I took some art courses … and all of a sudden everything just clicked.”
He also self-published a comic novel and plans to publish another in about six months. Samples of his work is online at www.morelliart.com.
His presentation on Tuesday, April 24, is at 6:30 p.m. and will include a Q&A session.