Interview with Wendy M. Ross

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Interview with Wendy M. Ross


Design of the George Mason Memorial


Ross's personal account of reasoning behind the design of the George Mason Memorial


Wendy M. Ross




24, February, 2020


Ryan Salak








Wendy M. Ross Interview

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There are two distinct concepts at play in the depictions of George Mason although there is the unifying link of the books that informed his social and political views. At the University, I wanted to show how learning (the books on the desk where he is resting his right hand) could be transformed and produce a new vision -- in this case the Declaration of Rights, which he holds in his left. For the Memorial, I wanted to portray him at the end of his life, still surrounded by his books, but now at rest in his garden looking out at the Republic he helped to found, but after the adoption of the Bill of Rights. He lived to see that although his opposition to the Constitution for its failure to include a Bill of Rights led to considerable friction with his former friends, including Washington and Jefferson as well as Monroe and Madison. Like all individuals, he was complex but there was always that fundamental belief in knowledge and the importance of learning.

Setting is always critical to my public art, whether it is representational or abstract. For the University, how learning translates into action seemed important and that led to how I designed the sculpture where his intellect was the medium that transformed the writings of the Enlightenment and classics into the Virginia Declaration of Rights. For the Mall, however, the setting was the seat of government and the monuments to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and others. The Republic itself was the setting and, in Mason's view, the Bill of Rights was critical to the protection of the individual and the several States against the powers granted to the central government. I won't speculate on what he would think of the post-New Deal growth of government, but for the National Mall, it seemed to me that the end of his life was fitting, both historically and for the setting. He is relaxed, his race is run, his efforts were rewarded with the adoption of the Bill of Rights even if it cost him the friendship of many colleagues. Unlike the University where he is drawing knowledge from the books on his desk, here he has closed the book by Cicero in his hand even as his contributions are coming to an end. His gaze, however, is towards his colleagues -- Washington and Jefferson -- and out over the capitol of the Republic.

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Wendy M. Ross,


Ryan Salak,

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Wendy M. Ross, “Interview with Wendy M. Ross,” Mason's Legacies, accessed July 17, 2024,

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