The City of Lake Wales celebrates Ms. Selma Burke, famously known for her relief portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is widely acknowledged as the face on the U.S. dime.
In the 1920s, Burke became a popular African American female artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Her creative talents influenced many black artists and writers that captured the nation’s attention.
In 1944, Burke met with President Roosevelt and sketched his portrait. It’s noted she requested to meet with the president because the photographs she received were not adequate.
Burke was known as “the people’s sculptor.” Her artistic pieces of art reflected the human body. She used many different types of materials, such as clay, alabaster, limestone, brass and bronze.
Some of Burke’s other famous works include Temptation (1938), Despair (1951), Fallen Angel (1958), Mother and Child (1968) and Together (1975). Other notable bas-reliefs include Duke Ellington, John Brown and Mary McLeod Bethune.
Prior to her artistic career, Burke attended Saint Agnes Training School for Nurses in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she graduated as a registered nurse in 1924.
Burke’s desire to teach arts led her to open the Selma Burke School of Sculpture in New York City in 1940. She furthered her education and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in 1941. Shortly after in 1942, Burke became one of the first African American women to join the Navy.
Burke completed her final masterpiece in 1980 — a nine-foot bronze statue of Martin Luther King Jr. that resides in Marshall Park in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ms. Selma Burk passed away in 1995. Her works of art continue to influence multicultural artists around the world.
Article inspired by Dorothy Scott-Wilson