Artists Stan Mullins and Kathy Fincher at Inferno Art Foundry. Photographs by Isadora Pennington.

On Feb. 13, the media was invited to Inferno Art Foundry in Union City, Ga. to witness the bronzing of an 8-foot statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. where artists Kathy Fincher and Stan Mullins were on hand to answer questions and supervise the assembly of this massive artwork. Fincher, who designed the piece over the course of four years, described how she and Mullins worked on the sculpture around the clock for about three months during the summer of 2022. 

Metal fabricator Dale Smith with the bust of Dr. King.

The statue, which will be unveiled on April 1 and will reside in Atlanta’s Historic Vine City, is one of 18 statues dedicated to 300 years of Georgia’s icons of peace. Depicting his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr. King is rendered with eyes cast toward the heavens, his Doctorate robe trailing in the wind, and his Bible in hand. The finished sculpture will be poised atop a rock from Stone Mountain. 

During the design process as she researched statues and monuments of Dr. King the world over, Fincher discovered that none depict him in a moment of talking to, praying, or seeking God. This inspired her to portray this moment of divine communication as the spirit of the Lord flows through his figure. 

As large portions of the sculpture were carefully lifted and hand-welded together, Fincher discussed the incredible level of detail and commitment to accuracy that she and Mullins embraced during the creation of this piece. During the design process they were able to borrow Dr. King’s father’s robe which they referenced in the studio to ensure that the velvet patches on the sleeves were created with precision. The Bible in Dr. King’s hand was modeled after the Bible that his brother owned which is now kept in the National Monument Museum’s library. Fincher requested that they send her a photograph of the specific page that outlines Moses’ death, and that page bore a red star that had been drawn in the margins next to that passage as well as the stain of a bookmark which was permanently kept in that spot of the book. 

There are several parallels that Fincher has drawn between Dr. King and Moses. “The whole Mountain Top speech was the last minute and a half of his last speech; he was killed the next day. And Moses died after seeing the promised land,” she explained. His robe likewise transforms from the iconic doctorate robe into one more akin to what Moses would have worn. 

In all her research, Fincher kept coming back to Dr. King’s powerful faith. “Hopefully this is how he’d want it done, showing him talking to God,” said Fincher. “That’s what I want to sculpt: his spirit.”

Mullins, an Athens-based artist who works in a wide variety of mediums ranging from watercolors to oversized stone monuments, was a perfect pairing with Fincher for this project. His career spans more than 25 years and his techniques and styles have been informed by countless travel experiences as he seeks spiritual enlightenment. Mullins has a background in the classics while Fincher’s background leans heavily towards the works of classical masters, and together they have created a truly moving statue in a baroque style. 

For Fincher, this Dr. King statue is the latest in a series of bold artistic explorations. She is one of the most licensed children’s painters in America and uses a combination of classical art training and expressionism to create works that have earned her the nickname of the “feminine Rockwell.” Her extensive experience painting children with their cherubic round faces and the storytelling nature of her works have proved essential in creating a sculpture that not only looks like Dr. King but also portrays deep emotion and narrative. 

Artists Stan Mullins and Kathy Fincher. Photography by Isadora Pennington.

The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been commissioned by several local and national philanthropists including Sandra and Clyde Strickland of Gwinnett County, CEO of Eclipse Gaming Systems Tim Minard, acclaimed keynote speaker Dame Didi Wong, Social Investment Holdings, Inc, and the National Monuments Foundation. 

The World Peace Revival and the King Center will honor Dr. King’s legacy by hosting a “Peace Walk” at Rodney Cook Sr. Peace Park on April 1. Following the day’s events, the grand finale will be the unveiling of Fincher and Mullin’s statue on the site. For more information, visit the World Peace Revival website.

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.