A follow-up of an earlier post in the Babes with Brains column.
She's finally here in all her 10 foot bronze glory! The Julia Tuttle statue unveiling took place this very hot and sweaty morning behind the playground at Bayfront Park. Nearly 200 people crammed into an air-conditioned tent where movers and shakers -- from Mayor Tomas Regalado to historian Arva Moore Parks -- spoke on the subject of Miami's founder.
The statue is beautiful, thanks to the handiwork of Daub and Firmin studios. In a graceful gesture, Tuttle's palm extends upward holding the famous orange blossoms that convinced Henry Flagler to bring his railroad to the shores of the Miami river. That offering summarizes the story: "I gave orange blossoms and a city was born."
But Tuttle's skirt tells more. Bas relief displays scenes from Miami's frontier down days. The style is deliberate: Arva Moore Parks encouraged everyone to visit the statue and "touch Miami."
Tuttle wants you to touch her; it's supposed to be a tactile experience. She doesn't create distance. Those scenes may be from the past, but history is here and now. It's all around you. You're standing on it. You're looking at it. In a city that tends to ignore history, Tuttle's statue is a fixed reminder that history is always there, if you're willing to look for it, touch it and feel it in your heart.
There's something feminine and maternal about the work, yet also something strong and powerful. Her head is slightly tilted, looking to the side, so she doesn't feel like a statue, but rather an organic creature, who might have ironed her blouse just before posing. Her face is serene as if she was just about to ask you to join her for a cup of tea, yet she stands determined.
I simply love the immediacy of this statue. Yes, she's imposing, but she's also very real.
Most moving are the visionary words carved into her skirt, written just before her death:
"It may seem strange, but it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country ... as surely as the sun rises and sets all of this will come true."At the age of 42, Tuttle helped build this city with pure tenacity and grit. Sadly, she died at age 49 never to see her dream come true, so think of what it means to see her face framed by towering high-rises in the photo above.
R and B songstress Betty Wright belted out "I Am Woman" just after the statue was unveiled. Enjoy!
More pictures of the statue on Flickr.