Fashioned out of stainless steel and bronze, the sculpture stretches upward almost 25 feet.
Figures clamber, scramble up the side of the piece - shaped roughly like a long, tapering pyramid - as if scaling a cliff. At the bottom of the sculpture, a woman surges out of a rickety wooden boat, her outstretched arms gripped from above by a man in work clothes, standing on the shore. Far above, a fleeing figure, carrying a stick with a bag tied to the end, emerges briefly from a tangle of branches and leaves. Even farther above, a woman and a man drag themselves up a rocky face, the tension palpable in their straining arms, legs and torsos.
But near the center of this new sculpture by Peoria artist Preston Jackson, which will be unveiled Friday at the Civic Center, are two figures that neither strain nor flee. One is an elderly man, who wears a hat and a bow tie, and who looks below at the man and woman emerging from the boat. He offers the struggling fugitives a ladle full of water from a bucket he is clutching. A woman stands next to the man, gazing at the viewer with a curious look of gentleness and defiance.
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