Artist aims to bring Statue of Liberty to the shore of South Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Artist Matthew Welter wants to bring the Statue of Liberty to a different shore: South Lake Tahoe.
The Carson City artist has sculpted a 30-foot wooden tribute to Lady Liberty called “Hand of Order.” The self-described Libertarian, inspired to action by the terrorist acts in the United States on Sept. 11, designed the statue’s base to appear as if it were collapsing.
“I wanted the image of liberty rising over calamity,” Welter said last week, sitting in the shadow of his statue outside his Timeless Sculptures studio at the base of Spooner Summit at the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 395.
This is the second incarnation of Hand of Order. The first was torched by vandals in 1997 during Burning Man, an annual arts festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Welter’s goal is to install Hand of Order in Ski Run Marina by July 4. His hope is that someone commissions another liberty-themed project so he sculpt by chainsaw next to the statue. The performance, as he calls it, will conclude at the end of the summer, allowing visitors to watch the progression of the sculpture.
“I want to inspire artists to preserve images of liberty,” Welter said.
Mansoor Elie Alyeshmerni, owner of the Ski Run Marina, supports the project. Alyeshmerni said he connected with Welter over their mutual patriotism and love of America.
“I am not native born, but very much fond of America,” Alyeshmerni said. “(Welter) is a very patriotic gentlemen. He was touched by my patriotism, so I know this is where I first made the connection.”
Alyeshmerni, who purchased the marina in 2002, is interested in eventually turning the green area between the parking lot and the beach into a sculpture garden.
“It would be a place where people would come and visit and stop,” Alyeshmerni said.
Welter had grown frustrated about the project, believing that city planners were requiring special use permits because the use of a chainsaw classified his art as “light manufacturing.”
But Hilary Hodges, planning manger for the city of the South Lake Tahoe, clarified that Welter would only need the special use permit to perform on Highway 50 at the entrance to the marina, one of his earlier proposals.
If the statue and performance were inside the marina, which has been designated a special event area, Welter would only need to apply for a public art permit, which would go to the planning commission and the art department at Lake Tahoe Community College for review.
Welter welcomed the news.
“That’s been the whole hitch – the city insisted it was light manufacturing,” Welter said Friday.
City Manager David Jenkins said he would be happy to help bring Welter’s piece through the review process.
“I’m sure that we will be able to give it a very favorable review,” Jenkins said.
Dennis Oliver, spokesman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Association, said public art displays and demonstrations are an important part of the area’s revitalization.
“The TRPA is part of the emerging coalition that is trying to look at how we do business in Tahoe and how to just get the economy going again,” Oliver said. “One of the geotourism tenets is that you have more cultural and heritage and artistic assets in Tahoe for people to enjoy.
“This is just an example of the kind of thing that can get people interested in Ski Run in Lake Tahoe and art and culture,” he added. “As a result of this, I think it would generate a lot of foot traffic.”