The head of Solidarity Evereman in Jay Wiggins’ workshop. Image via Evereman’s Instagram.
The Evereman concept got its start as an experiment in free public street art. Wiggins told Atlanta Loop that years ago he and his wife got into the habit of leaving small woodcuts of the now-iconic face throughout the city. People would seek out the tiles and take them home, and “it just grew organically from there,” he said.
Over the years, Wiggins – a furniture maker by trade – got more involved in the Atlanta street art scene, collaborating with other well-known artists, and has himself grown in popularity to become a staple of Atlanta’s art culture. These days, Evereman seems to pop up everywhere.
Although the Evereman image is becoming ubiquitous, Wiggins still remains true to the concept’s original intentions. “I’m a big fan of Woodie Guthrie, Joe Hill, these people that spoke up for the common man, the proletariat, the everyman,” he says. “What we’re doing is art for all.”
In that sense, Wiggins says Evereman has always been political. “We’re giving something away in a capitalist society,” he said. “That’s kind of at odds with the norm… so much of [society] is about acquiring and consuming and money – this idea of sharing something willing with strangers, to me, it’s a political statement.”
Embracing and building on the political nature of his work, Wiggins will be unveiling his newest sculpture, called Solidarity Evereman, tomorrow night at the Georgia Beer Garden. Barbara Joye, secretary for the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists will speak briefly and Wiggins will follow to explain the significance of the sculpture. The unveiling will commence at 8 p.m., and visitors are invited attend the Georgia Beer Garden’s viewing party of the election returns immediately after.
Wiggins says the 18 foot-tall Evereman is without a doubt his most political piece to date and will be highly symbolic. According to program materials, each element of the sculpture represents a unique theme about issues facing the majority of citizens in our country every day:
- The figure’s clenched fist represents strength and solidarity for all people to have equal opportunities to better themselves and move ahead.
- The rose represents the Bread and Roses strike of the late 1800s. Immigrant women and children banded together to demand fair wages as well as support to improve their quality of life.
- The heart symbolizes the idea that every person is an individual deserving of compassion and fairness.
- The metal belt buckle is engraved with a symbol of peacemaking after strife, the West African Mpatapo knot. This symbol binds parties in a dispute to a peaceful, harmonious reconciliation.
- The metal boots symbolize how current policies make it difficult for the majority to take the necessary steps to lift themselves up and succeed.
Regardless of the election’s results, Wiggins feels the sculpture will make a powerful political statement in the Atlanta community and beyond.