WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A composite landscape portrait of American men, so big it is best seen from a low-flying airplane, went on display on Washington’s National Mall on Wednesday.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery opened its “face-scape” of a six-acre (2.3-hectare) photograph-like image of a young man’s face between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial, two of the U.S. capital’s biggest tourist draws.
“It’s not the face of America. It’s the face of one of the hundreds of millions of faces that America has,” artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada said of the portrait, which appears to be gazing into space.
Rodriguez-Gerada, who said he was trying to push the boundaries of portraiture, used global positioning satellites and the software program Photoshop to craft the image out of 2,300 tons of sand and 800 tons of soil.
He calls the image “Out of Many, One,” which is the English translation of the Latin motto “E Pluribus Unum” found on the Seal of the United States.
The face-scape is the first in the United States for Rodriguez-Gerada, a Cuban-American artist raised in New Jersey but now based in Barcelona, Spain. He has displayed face-scapes in Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.
To design the image, he took photographs of 30 men between 18 and 25 years of age in Washington. He then selected portions of each face and combined them into one composite image that he converted to a drawing.
He next used satellite imaging to map out how to reproduce the face by placing about 10,000 wooden pegs in the ground with a global positioning satellite antenna.
Eight miles (13 km) of string running from peg to peg formed the template for laying down the sand and soil in a reproduction of the drawing.
He drew his inspiration from his upbringing in New Jersey, where his boyhood friends came from various ethnic and national backgrounds. The $500,000 project was funded through private donations.
The best view of the portrait is from the top of the 555-foot-high (170-meter-high) Lincoln Memorial or from airplanes landing at or taking off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Visitors can view the portrait on the ground until it is removed at the end of October.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham