The “Freedom Painting” is a large, socially significant, oil painting created by Sharon Lange in 2015. The official title of the painting is FREEDOM – Liberty Lighting Our Way. The canvas itself is 93 in. x 74 in. and framed the painting is approximately 9 ft. by 7 ft. It is currently on display in the lobby entrance of the Kent County Administration Building located on the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Artist Statement: FREEDOM – Liberty Lighting Our Way
In this allegorical scene, I created a personified Lady Liberty, her torch ablaze, lighting our way through the darkness (evil); the ethereal quality of her edges, symbolizing the Ideal of FREEDOM, that we all look up to and hold dear. Gathering before her, are all of us… a diverse group of hopeful Americans, representing many Faiths and Ethnicities. And in the foreground, an American Soldier, the only one not looking up at Liberty… gazing out into her light, protecting the Freedoms we are blessed to enjoy here. The First Amendment of our Constitution is the foundation of our freedoms, and all 5 freedoms guaranteed under that amendment are represented in the painting.
The people featured in this painting are all real people from the West Michigan area.
Beginning with Freedom of Religion, there are 5 different Faith Leaders illustrated in the painting. A Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim Imam, a Buddhist Monk, and a Protestant Minister. All, who gathered together to participate and pose for me, along with all the others in the painting, to show their love for our country, and the freedoms they enjoy, to preach and share their religious views with their followers
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are represented by the student protestor who proudly waves his commitment to his cause to Vote Yes to whatever it is he feels passionate about. How blessed we are to be Free to express our passion for whatever it is we believe in.
Freedom of Petition is illustrated by the Petition the Rabbi holds in his hands, and what better demonstration of Freedom of Assembly can there be than the fact that ALL of these people gathered together in one place, at the same time, in the name of Peace, to show their support for the Ideal of FREEDOM, and illustrate that diverse committed AMERICANS can, and DO, come together to support a common cause.
The composition speaks to the strengths of us as a Collective, and Diversity the secret to our strength. Just as both cotton and synthetic fabric have their individual advantages and disadvantages, a blend creates a stronger, more resilient garment that will, without a doubt, hold together better over time. So too is the fabric of our nation, made stronger by our diverse nature, woven together with our collective strengths. These philosophies, intertwined into the fabric of who we are, not without our blemishes, but stronger than any other country on earth.
With our tenacity and determination growing ever stronger, we are firm in our conviction that we will prevail, united in our belief that Liberty is our most precious inalienable right and She will always be lighting our way.
Call to Action “FREEDOM – Liberty Lighting Our Way”
That precious intangible that we so often take for granted.
The treasure beyond compare that so many have paid the ultimate price for, so that we may enjoy this precious gift.
Yet night after night, media coverage would have us believe we live in a country riddled by conflict and dissent. They paint a picture of discord, dissonance and racial tension. They eagerly portray all that is wrong with our country rather than all that is right with it.
It is time to Remember.
- Remember that our Country was built by different people coming together to build a phenomenal dream. The American Dream.
- Remember that our Melting Pot foundation has built the Greatest Country on earth and that it is our differences that give us strength.
- Remember that our lives are enriched by diverse associations and that our Country is made stronger by the exchange of ideas that spring forth from these relationships.
- And Remember that we are responsible to foster these harmonious relationships and teach our children that our foundational belief MUST be Love for all people.
It’s time to challenge all the fear mongering we hear on every news station.
TODAY. Step Up. Start the Conversation.
Reject the voices preaching fear and prejudice, and stand up for what this country was built upon. Defend the belief that ALL men and women are created equal and that Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness are guaranteed to ALL of us.
Let’s TOGETHER create a Legacy of Love and paint a new picture of America, bathed in the warmth of Liberty’s Light.
Guide to symbolism included in the painting
- The painting is set in an atmosphere of darkness representing evil, with Liberty’s Light illuminating the only way out. Metaphorically, this is meant to illustrate Freedom triumphing over Evil.
- The group of people looking up to Lady Liberty symbolizes all of us.
- The American soldier is the only one of us not looking at Lady Liberty – but rather looking out into her light and protecting us and our freedoms.
- The broken chain on Lady Liberty’s foot is exactly as it appears on the actual Statue of Liberty in New York. The sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was an avid abolitionist and believed that all men and women are created equal, and added this detail to the statue so we would have a reminder of that important fact.
- The woman holding that baby is wearisome, resting back onto the religious leader’s hand as she steps forward onto uncertain ground. This is meant to signify how we rest upon our Faith during uncertain times.
- Many of the figures overlap or touch in some manner symbolizing our connectedness.
- Across the painting we see color reflected off one person and onto the next, suggesting the nature of how we touch each other’s lives, sometimes without even knowing it.
- The date on the newspaper (2/7/2015) is the day that everyone gathered together to pose for the painting.