Seven Seals of Silence
Ed Wilson (African American, Baltimore, MD 1925-1996),
Seven Seals of Silence, 1969
Granite and bronze
Location: Kennedy Park, Intersection of Chenango & Henry Street
Ed Wilson, born in 1925 in Baltimore, Maryland, was trained in painting and sculpture at the University of Iowa. In 1953, he received his master’s degree in sculpture. He eventually became a Professor at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham; later, he accepted the invitation to be a studio art Professor at Binghamton University. While teaching at Binghamton, Wilson was commissioned to create a new monument for the center of JFK Memorial Park in Downtown Binghamton. As an African American artist, Wilson faced many hardships due to the prejudices of the 1960s. Thus, Wilson was heavily influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and was quite fond of
President Kennedy; he was quoted referring to
Kennedy as a “very committed man” who created a “healthy atmosphere around the principle of involvement and commitment.” The memorial was completed in 1969; Wilson remained in Vestal until his death in 1996, at age 71.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy occurred on November 22, 1963. Though his term as president was brief, Kennedy left a lasting impact on an America that was just beginning to struggle in earnest with the poisonous legacies of racism. The president spoke eloquently about civil rights, and helped put into motion legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act (signed into law the year after Kennedy’s assassination by his successor Lyndon B. Johnson). The Seven Seals of Silence is a monument dedicated both to Kennedy’s memory and to the matters of justice, fairness, and civil responsibility that were major themes of his presidency.
The Seven Seals of Silence is a three-sided monument standing ten feet tall with a granite base. Attached to the three sides are a total of twelve bronze bas-relief plaques. Particular effort was taken in the positioning and design of this monument such that the sun shines on two sides of the monument at all times, leaving one set of reliefs in darkness.
Each relief includes scenes of figures that illustrate the difficulties found in our everyday life. “The Maimed and The Ignorant” presents three seated figures feeding themselves on their self-pity and ignorance. The upper portion of the seal represents an assertive cloud of ignorance that feeds the three individuals below. The second seal titled, “The Conformists,” has seven figures, each individual isolated within their own compartments from one another and reality. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” “The Uninspired” shows three figures squeezed into a tiny space and compressed into inactivity by bulging forces
from above and below. The next seal shows two figures out of equilibrium with themselves and with other people. The seal is separated into two bronze plaques titled “The Rejected.” On one, the figure is shown off-balance, in a whirlwind. The second has the figure watching the imbalance of his counterpart. “The Depraved” is meant to symbolize absolute negative involvement. The three figures are contorted in powerful writhing of misdirected pleasure. The seal titled “The Invisible” displays the hollowed out bodies for six figures gathered in a line awaiting assessment on judgment day. One figure remains, preparing to enter into the realm of non-existence with the other figures. The final seal on the monument is titled “The Dead.” It is separated into two bronze plaques; one resembles a mass of blurred forms while a body lay on the plaque below seemingly deceased.
Through these reliefs, Wilson has portrayed the consequences of seclusions from everyday life. These plaques are designed to encourage the development of one’s self, as well as inspire individuals to take initiative and act on their beliefs in order to guarantee a positive movement forward.
Researched by: Maria Marcellino
Photographed by: Jillian Proscia