Slow Motion | Sandy Williams IV, The Wax Monuments

Sandy Williams IV, The Wax Monuments, 2024

Sandy Williams IV’s The Wax Monuments series is a provocation that invites people to exercise agency and control over public symbols that are typically deemed “permanent” and “untouchable” by law and mainstream American society. Since 2017, Williams has produced wax replicas of famous monuments to historical figures, 3-D scanning them to create molds in a variety of different sizes, from the over-life-size to the miniature. By reproducing them in wax, a highly malleable and ephemeral material, the artist (re)creates experimental contexts for visitors to participate in the life cycles of historic monuments.  

In this version of the series, miniaturized wax replicas of iconic symbols from around the nation—Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, the Statue of Liberty in New York City, Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, NC, Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, VA, Martin Luther King, Jr. in D.C—are staged atop a long pedestal inspired by the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial are a potent site of memory for democratic convening and political demonstration, from Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert performance to the 1963 March on Washington and the 1985 AIDS Memorial Quilt. Today, the steps continue to serve as a stage for collective action–where “the people” speak back to the systems of power and oppression, pressuring America’s promises of liberty, equality, and justice to become a reality for all.

By re-presenting these monumental symbols together, the artist illuminates the dissonances within the stories that America tells itself, which often cast myth as history and distort truth. In other words, the installation does not seek to make claims about which historical figures and symbols are “good” or “bad”. Rather, the installation sparks questions about how monuments obscure histories, while inviting the people to engage with symbols. Periodic lightings of these wax monuments are scheduled throughout the exhibition.

Materials: Beeswax wax, wicks, expanded polystyrene foam, epoxy hard coating, wood

Project manager: Gina Ciralli 
Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab

0f2bfdf2 885e 449b Be69 94e1063d1838Sandy Williams IV (Born in 1992 in Belleville, NJ; they/them) is an artist and educator whose work generates moments of communal catharsis. Based in Richmond, VA, their conceptual practice uses time itself as a material and aims to unfold the hidden legacies of public spaces. Through ephemeral, malleable, and collaborative public memorials, Williams’ work unsettles popular colonial logics of permanence, uniformity, and displacement. This work creates participatory paths for communal engagement informed by targeted research and site-specificity: holding space for disenfranchised public memories and visualizing frameworks of emancipation and shared agency. While aesthetically Williams’ work flirts with minimalism, the practice is deeply interdisciplinary, and carefully layers contextual research, communal activity, collaboration, civic action, and performance. Their projects expand beyond the limits of the gallery toward public space: places of education and worship, fashion, virtual portals, and even upward to the sky. Williams’ work is guided by generations of freedom fighters who have dared to unsettle global colonial practices and the visible and invisible structures that sustain them.

Follow Sandy Williams IV on Instagram @sandywilliams_iv to learn more.

Major support has been provided to Grounds for Sculpture for Slow Motion by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brooke Barrie Art Fund, NRG Energy, and Julie and Michael Nachamkin. Additional support has been provided by the Atlantic Foundation, Holman, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and New Jersey Department of State.

Image Credits

  • Sandy Williams, IV, The Wax Monuments, 2024, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab (photo: Bruce M. White)

  • Sandy Williams, IV, The Wax Monuments, 2024 (detail), Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, Slow Motion curated by Patricia Eunji Kim for Monument Lab (photo: Bruce M. White)