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Return to the year 1969

Kamehameha I and Father Damien honored in Statuary Hall

With statehood, Hawai'i was entitled to place two monuments in Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington D.C. A Hawaiian Statuary Hall Commission was not formed until 1965 at which time one of the two figures commemorated - Father Damien - was quickly chosen. The second, Kamehameha I, was not decided on until 1967, but a replica of the Gould statue that stood across from 'Iolani Palace was easily chosen and executed. Choosing a work to depict Father Damien was more difficult. As the result of a competition, several artists presented models of their proposed works. Marisol Escobar's work was chosen despite vocal opposition because she depicted Father Damien not as heroic, but as a stubborn, plain priest ravaged by his years of working with lepers and by the effects of the disease on his own body. The artist stated, "I was sent several photographs of Father Damien. I chose the one that shows him as a mature man . . . . I cannot see Father Damien as a young European priest before he has accomplished what he wanted to - and without the marks of his accomplishment." The blocky, determined sculpture stands in marked contrast to the neo-classical marble sculptures of Statuary Hall, but many visitors are drawn to it by its oddity and end up learning something new about one of Hawaii's heroes. The statue also stands in front of the state capitol building in Honolulu.

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