For Painter Jerrel Sustaita, the Lee Statue Calls to Mind His Relationship With His Son

Artist Jerrel Sustaita drives down Turtle Creek Boulevard often. When he first noticed the sculpture "Robert E. Lee and Young Soldier," he didn't see the riders' Confederate uniforms. Instead, he saw the subject of his next painting.

On Thursday morning, Sustaita was committing Alexander Phimister Proctor's 1936 sculpture to canvas as efforts to remove it began. "With all the news surrounding the removal of the sculpture, I've realized my 

days were numbered to get that painting made," he says.

Observing the sculpture up close for the first time, Sustaita was struck by the contrasts between the horses and between their riders. It reminded him of the dynamic between him and his son when they go on drives together or do construction work.

"The one that the young rider is on seems tired from this journey, like they've ridden all night. And he's like, 'We could just stop. Let's just take a break,'" Sustaita says. "But the other horse is like, 'No, I've been here before. Trust me, once we get over this ridge, it's gonna be good. There's gonna be sweetgrass, there's gonna be places to rest, fresh water. This is the hard part, but once we get over it, it's all right.' ... The same thing is reflected in the two riders."

A lawsuit Wednesday afternoon by the Sons of Confederate Veterans temporarily halted the removal of the statue, initiated earlier that day after a City Council vote, but a federal judge ruled yesterday that it can come down. Council member Dwaine Caraway said that the statue will be stored and not destroyed.

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