40 ACRES: Camp Barker, the captivating six-foot-tall wax replica of the Lincoln Memorial statue by Richmond, Virginia–based artist Sandy Williams IV, is set to make its highly anticipated return to the District. Commissioned by CulturalDC and funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Public Art Building Communities Grant, this thought-provoking piece will reappear once again at Garrison Elementary School (1200 S Street NW) on Thursday, February 15.
40 ACRES: Camp Barker marks the third public installation of Williams’ 40 ACRES Archive: The Wax Monument Series. In this series, Williams creates wax replicas of notable public monuments and cultural symbols — such as Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson, and President Thomas Jefferson — that include candle wicks to allow the public to engage with the sculptures as they are melted over time. The 40 ACRES Archive is a multidisciplinary project investigating the history of the Reconstruction era, often referred to as the second founding of America.
“Traditionally, monuments are made to sit and collect a patina, as they withstand change, in an attempt to eternalize a particular reality. I am interested in visualizing change and building monuments able to keep a living record of activity,” said artist Sandy Williams IV. “By melting these wax versions of famous monuments, people are given agency over these forms that are normally (legally) untouchable.”
A first iteration of 40 ACRES: Camp Barker, a beeswax sculpture of the Abraham Lincoln statue, was unveiled at Garrison Elementary in late September 2023. The sculpture is a powerful tribute to President Lincoln, Camp Barker, and the resilient individuals who once inhabited “contraband camps” during the Civil War. Camp Barker — a historical site where Garrison Elementary now stands — served as a refuge for those who escaped enslavement and sought sanctuary in Union-controlled territories, one of several such camps across the District.
The original artwork was removed on October 4, 2023, after it was prematurely lit and significantly melted, ahead of its planned dedication ceremony, during the city’s annual Art All Night event. The redesigned sculpture features far fewer, but strategically placed, wicks to ensure a slower melt, better preserving the figure’s integrity over time.
Kristi Maiselman, Executive Director and Curator of CulturalDC, expressed her excitement about the relaunch: “We are thrilled to announce the return of 40 ACRES: Camp Barker. The rich history embedded in this piece is a testament to our community’s resilience, and we are eager to reintroduce this impactful artwork to the public.”
The 40 ACRES: Camp Barker relaunch event will be held on Thursday, February 15, 3:30-5:30 p.m., at Garrison Elementary, 1200 S Street NW. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments including hot chocolate, other beverages, and small bites will be provided. The sculpture will be on display at Garrison Elementary through September 2024.
[Source: Cultural DC press release]