The American Medallic Sculptors Association (AMSA) has announced that Jeanne Stevens-Sollman has won the 2021 American Medal of the Year (AMY) award for her work honoring George Floyd.
Following the deaths of Antwon Rose, Jr., Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and other Black people at the hands of police, when George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by a white police officer in May 2020, Stevens-Sollman was overwhelmed, asking herself, “Why? What can I do?”
Describing her inspiration, Stevens-Sollman wrote: “I am an artist, working in my studio, listening to the news of these distance killings in my country that is supposed to be the land of the free. What can I do? I am a sculptor grieving for the injustice in my country. I am a pacifist trying to deal with issues that are difficult to understand. What can I do? As an artist I can try to raise awareness of the inequality of these events, to raise the level of consciousness of what people of color face on a daily basis.
As an emotional release for me, “George Floyd, Black Lives Matter” was created. Physically putting this story into people’s hands helped me fight the anger and helplessness I was feeling at the time. Hopefully, this medal will help our citizens to be moved to find justice, to erase hate, to see more clearly that we need to live together in harmony and peace – and to achieve justice for all.”
Stevens-Sollman’s American Medal of the Year features a portrait of George Floyd, along with his name, the date of his death “5•25•2020,” his dying words “I CAN’T BREATH,” and “8 46,” indicating the estimated time duration of eight minutes, 46 seconds that an officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The reverse design depicts three raised fists and the inscription “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.” This slogan has been used by those protesting violence against Black people by white people; its origin can be traced back to 1986, following the murder of Michael Griffith at the hands of a mob of white youths.
Stevens-Sollman is contributing an example of her George Floyd medal to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. A limited edition of no more than 25 cast bronze examples of the large, 95mm art medal can be ordered from the artist for $200 plus $12 shipping. Stevens-Sollman will donate all profits from the sales of this medal to Black Lives Matter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 355-3332.
“The voting was extremely close,” revealed Mel Wacks, chair of the AMY Committee. “Jeanne’s outstanding medal beat out the other two finalists by only a single vote.”
The runner-ups both feature strong personalities: Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis by Jim Licaretz and poet Charles Bukowski by Eugene Daub.
Licaretz, formerly sculptor and engraver at the U.S. Mint, created a very high relief medal portraying Rep. John Lewis, whose quote “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble” and dates “1940-2020” are featured on the reverse.
When Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986, one of his first bills was the creation of a national museum to chronicle the history, culture and successes of Black Americans. The culmination of this bill was passed in 2003 and opened in 2016 as the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And so, it is appropriate, that Licaretz will contribute one of the John Lewis medals to this museum. Collectors will be able to get one of the no more than 50 John Lewis 88mm medals made from bonded bronze for $75 plus $10 shipping by contacting the sculptor at email@example.com or (310) 686-0920.
Daub, whose statue of Rosa Parks in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol was attended by President Barack Obama, created the other AMY runner-up medal, dedicated to poet Charles Bukowski. The reverse is an extract from Bukowski’s poem “How Is Your Heart:”
“I always had this certain
I wouldn’t call it
it was more of an inner
that settled for
whatever was occurring …
and to walk across the floor
to an old dresser with a / cracked mirror-
see myself, ugly,
grinning at it all.
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
All of the profits from the sale of these medals will go to the San Pedro Historical Society to help pay for a statue of longtime resident Charles Bukowski, that will also be designed by Daub. The large art medals are available for $75 plus $10 shipping (porcelain, 90mm, maximum of 150), and $195 plus $12 shipping (cast bronze, 98mm, weighing about a pound, maximum of 100). To place an order, contact Daub at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 872-9854.
All 38 AMY entries will be pictured in the next full color issue of AMSA’s Members Exchange. For more information, visit at www.amsamedals.org.