UPDATE: Sculptures of Douglass, L'Enfant Near Completion

Gordon Kray, who is sculpting Pierre Charles L'Enfant, also worked on the eagle at the base of a statue of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
Gordon Kray, who is sculpting Pierre Charles L'Enfant, also worked on the eagle at the base of a statue of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. (2005 Photo By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two Washington area sculptors are busy putting the final touches on what will become two of the largest sculptures to be displayed at the John A. Wilson Building.

Washington area sculptors Steven Weitzman and Gordon Kray were selected last year by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on the sculptures of two of the District's most prominent residents: civil rights advocate, journalist and orator Frederick Douglass and architect and engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant.

The sculptures are scheduled to be completed by fall. District officials hope the sculptures' ultimate home will be National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, which would take approval by Congress. In the meantime, the works will be on display at the District's government headquarters.

In September, Weitzman and Kray were chosen from 12 finalists after a nationwide search.

Weitzman said being picked to work on the sculpture was "a great honor." He was commissioned to work on the bronze Douglass sculpture. Weitzman, 54, said it will be about 10 feet high and weigh 900 pounds. The sculpture will feature Douglass standing at a lectern holding a copy of his newspaper, the North Star.

Weitzman said his biggest challenge has been time. Often he works on the sculpture at his studio in Brentwood until 3:30 a.m., then sleeps a bit and returns to work about 7 a.m.

Weitzman was chosen after submitting his idea with a scale model, a written proposal and a 10-minute movie on how he envisioned the sculpture and the process of completing it -- erecting the sculpture first out of clay, then wax and finally in bronze.

The sculptors were paid $98,000 each for their work.

Weitzman's work can be seen throughout the Washington area. His piece "Caretakers," which he sculpted out of a 12-foot dead elm tree, sits outside Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville on Maryland Avenue.

He also designed a terrazzo mural near Largo Metro station.

Work by Kray can be seen on the monument for Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman near the White House. Kray worked on the eagle mounted on the sculpture.

Dorothy McSweeny, chairwoman of the commission, said she hoped that the statues would be allowed in Statuary Hall eventually, along with others from the 50 states.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has drafted a bill seeking permission to install the statues at the Capitol when they're completed.

-- Keith L. Alexander

© 2007 The Washington Post Company