Statues have been having a real moment, so to speak, as people the world over have been reconsidering what it means to still have monuments to figures who enslaved others and slaughtered indigenous populations. The reckoning, which has resulted in protesters toppling statues across the globe, has been destructive and cathartic. But The Guardian reports that an artist in Bristol, England, has taken the opportunity to replace a statue of Edward Colston, an English trader of enslaved people, with a new beautiful statue of Jen Reid, a protester for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The statue, which was erected atop the plinth where Colston’s statue once stood, captures a moment when five weeks ago, a group of protesters toppled the original statue of Colston and tossed it into the river. At that time, a photograph was captured of Reid standing on the empty plinth with her first in the air. Artist Marc Quinn told The Guardian that he was inspired by that image, which had been circulating in newspapers, and worked with Reid for weeks to get the installation just right. “I hope this sculpture will continue that dialogue, keep it in the forefront of people’s minds, be an energy conductor,” Quinn told The Guardian, “The image created by Jen that day—when she stood on the plinth with all the hope of the future of the world flowing through her—made the possibility of greater change feel more real than it has before.” Quinn has aptly named the statue “Surge of Power (Jen Reid).”
Bristol residents who have seen the statue of Reid are already describing it as iconic, which is appropriate; the entire work, from the top of her fist down to her shoes, emanates regality and power. Quinn, a white artist, was also able to do something that many white artists fail to do—capture the full beauty of a Black woman. For example, when Simone Biles was photographed for the cover of Vogue by famed photographer Annie Liebovitz, it was clear even to the untrained eye that Liebovitz had no idea how to light or photograph a Black woman. Biles is washed out and ashen in her photos, at one point looking completely grey. One photo Liebovitz which included Biles and members of her family is so devoid of color its as if Liebovitz’s camera sucked the very life out of them. In contrast, Quinn’s depiction of Reid is alive—it glows, much like Reid herself.
Quinn, who did not receive permission from Bristol’s city council to erect the statue, managed to get it in place within 15 minutes, a feat that Reid described as “pretty fucking ballsy, that it is.” The mayor of Bristol has not said whether the statue will be allowed to stay in place in the long term.