Skywatcher, c. 1948<img alt="" src="/sites/GovernorsMansion/Exhibitions/PublishingImages/Art-of-Illinois/Perkins-Skywatcher.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />Skywatcher, c. 1948<div class="ExternalClassE4F8D620FCF046A988E6DD5BE3CEA70A"><p>​A study in tense expectation, the seated figure in Marion Perkins' <em>Skywatcher </em>turns his head to look back and up, grasps his ankle with one hand, and clenches the other into a fist on his thigh. The artist hand-carved the sculpture from a shallow block of marble whose original rectilinear form is echoed in the man's rigidly straight back. His intent skyward gaze and painfully twisted posture suggest a threat all the more terrifying because it is undefined. Agonizingly aware, the figure is powerless in his seated position and self-immobilized as he grips his bent leg. </p><p><em>Skywatcher </em>is probably the first of several upward-gazing male figures that Perkins conceived in 1945 after the United States dropped atom bombs on two Japanese cities. The artist believed that a public memorial to the bombings' victims would find no acceptance in America until sometime in the future, "when we have repudiated the crimes which at present make us the most feared and hated nation." His "skywatcher" sculptures both evoke the terror felt by the victims and give universal expression to Perkins' deeply held political convictions as a passionate advocate of civil and human rights.</p><p>Born near Little Rock, Arkansas, Perkins grew up on Chicago's South Side, where he spent the rest of his life. Largely self-taught as an artist, he often sculpted from salvaged materials while supporting his family by menial work. Yet Perkins was no outsider: gregarious and intellectual, he belonged to a talented generation of writers and artists who made Chicago a thriving center for African American creativity in the 1930s and 1940s. His work was well received in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, which purchased one of his sculptures in 1951.</p></div>GP0|#c193a71f-c7e2-45cb-ac0d-d358f50ead23;L0|#0c193a71f-c7e2-45cb-ac0d-d358f50ead23|Marion Perkins;GTSet|#6a9f5109-021d-478a-ae73-864102492159;GPP|#9d68cbd3-25f3-49f0-8924-6cbe6cdb2f21;GPP|#be65f490-4890-487c-bb16-c396d99511f7Art;#TemporarySculpture;#Sculpture 3-dimensional;#Sculpture Stone;#Chicago, IllinoisMarble, 26¼ × 4½ × 22 inches Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum, Transfer from The Peace Museum