Sculptor Doug McLean started his work on a statue honoring the victims of the 1900 Galveston hurricane and flood a little over three years ago. But he based his design on photos from a piece from 1904. The original work was done by Pompeo Coppini, a sculptor famous for several projects in Texas – including the University of Texas at Austin’s Littlefield Memorial Fountain.
But the city of Galveston didn’t support the completion of that original work and it was lost to time except for a couple of photographs.
McLean said when a friend showed him the photos of that statue of a soaked and windblown woman caressing two children, he was inspired to finish it.
“It was really the emotion on the woman’s face that really attracted me,” McLean said. “And so my first attempt on this was to actually try and recreate that emotion and strength in that woman’s face.”
He said he wanted to honor the original work but also needed to add his own interpretation.
“I was only working from two photographs, from two very specific angles,” McLean said. “So everything else in that sculpture was something that I had to develop myself. And so that was a real, real challenge.”
He said he drew on his own experiences to fill in the blanks.
“Having lived through several hurricanes, including Ike and Alicia, I truly understood the anxiety and the emotion involved when everything around you is destroyed,” McLean said. “So I had my own personal feelings that were involved in it that helped me sort of to express that emotion.”
McLean said the raw emotion in the statue that may have originally been “too soon” for Galveston officials, is what he really wanted to draw out. He said the other primary focus is maternal power.
“Women were so much a part of the rebuilding and restructuring of Galveston after the hurricane,” McLean said. “They were so much involved in the governmental structure and the educational structure and the arts and culture. And they were the ones responsible for bringing so much back to the island. So that maternal love and devotion that’s shown in that sculpture, to me, really impacts it.”
The sculpture, titled “Hope,” is currently being cast in bronze in Smithville, Texas. It should be installed in a new Galveston park at the end of January or early February.