Chief Crazy Horse.
Chief Crazy Horse scans the horizon for visitors.

Liberty Sculpture Park: Crazy Horse, Tiananmen Square

Field review by the editors.

Yermo, California

In 2017 a group of friends, including Weiming Chen, a Chinese-born dissident and sculptor, bought 36 acres of desert next to the I-15 freeway. Chen christened it Liberty Sculpture Park, and told reporters that its purpose was to champion the human desire for freedom and condemn the oppression of Chinese communism. Artwork chosen for the park would be visible every day to thousands of passing motorists on the interstate. All artists were invited to contribute, but for now only Chen's work is standing in the desert.

Liberty Sculpture Park.
Unlikely neighbors: Chinese dissident and giant ice cream sundae.

His first sculpture, "The Origin of Freedom Number One: Chief Crazy Horse," is a 15-foot-high head of the Native American leader (And surprisingly similar to a much older big chief head in Saskatchewan). Chen said it marked the 140th anniversary of Crazy Horse's death in 1877.

A plaque on the sculpture's base states that the head is "manifesting a tacit truth: Freedom shall not be dictated by any people." Allowing for difficulties in Chinese-English translation, we would guess this means, Don't Tread on Me.

Chen's second sculpture, unveiled in 2018, is a 16-foot-tall likeness of Chinese activist Li Wangyang. He was imprisoned for 21 years following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, released, then found hanging in his hospital room. Suicide? Murder? Chen's sculpture, with chains dangling from its arms, suggests the latter. Depending on where you stand, the irony of too much freedom is suggested by the garish ice cream sundae water tank of Eddie World in the background.

Liberty Sculpture Park.
Crazy Horse on the left, 64 sculpture on the right.

In early 2019 Chen unveiled his most conceptual work at the park, which a press release described as, "the world's largest monument to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre." It's the number 6 and the number 4. The massacre, Chen explained, took place on 6/4/1989. The numbers are 6.4 meters tall -- roughly 20 feet -- and they're set at a 64 degree angle to something, although Chen wasn't clear about that. Also, Chen said, the sculpture is 6,400 miles from the massacre site in Tiananmen Square.

Another Tiananmen Massacre sculpture, far more literal, was unveiled by Chen on June 3, 2019. Titled "Tank Man," it's a life-size version of the famous photograph of an unidentified man, holding a briefcase, defiantly standing in front of a column of Tiananmen Square tanks. Chen made the man out of 1,300 pounds of bronze-painted concrete. He originally wanted a real tank, but instead built one out of steel, wood, fiberglass, plaster, and plastic foam.

Visitors are welcome to stare down the tank next to Tank Man.

Liberty Sculpture Park has thus far been a sputtering engine of art activism, with Chen dedicating one or two sculptures every year. At that rate it will take some time to fill up all 36 acres -- a sandy expanse of scrubby foliage, crisscrossing dirt roads, and old upholstered furniture that seem to serve as directional aids ("Turn right at the first comfy chair, then left at the TV room couch"). When we visited there was no one else around, but perhaps the contributions of additional artists will eventually draw a crowd.

Liberty Sculpture Park: Crazy Horse, Tiananmen Square

Liberty Sculpture Park

Address:
37570 W. Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA
Directions:
I-15 exit 194. Drive south on Calico Rd for a half-mile until the road ends. At the stop sign, turn right onto Yermo Rd. Drive a half-mile. You'll see the Liberty Sculpture Park entrance sign on the right.
RA Rates:
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In the region:
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June 17, 2019

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