Battle of the Wabash

Public Art, Sculpture

Vignette: Matt Weir's Statue of Colonel William Oldham

Sculptor Matt Weir at the July 21st unveiling.

Sculptor Matt Weir at the July 21st unveiling.

After more than three years of work, Matt Weir’s statue of Colonel William Oldham was unveiled on July 21, 2018. The 7-foot bronze and limestone statue, positioned in front of the Oldham County Courthouse, was introduced to the public as part of Oldham County Day festivities.

Weir was commissioned by Judge-Executive David Voegele to create what is, surprisingly, the first public art in the county. Oldham County was named after Colonel Oldham, who served in the Kentucky militia and was killed during the Revolutionary War

In an article about the issues surrounding public art published in just one year ago, Weir discussed the work, then in progress:

“There is a sense that he (Oldham) would have likely served as a public official if he had lived,” Weir says. “It’s unclear exactly how they came to name the county after him, but there is really no public sculpture in Oldham County, and Judge Voegele wanted to change that, and this seemed like a good place to start.”

Wier photographing Will Oldham at Locust Grove. Photo: Brian Bohannon.

Wier photographing Will Oldham at Locust Grove. Photo: Brian Bohannon.

There were no previous likeness of the Colonel for Weir to use as reference, so musician and songwriter Will Oldham, a descendant of the Colonel, was a crucial participant in the development, posing in a Revolutionary War uniform complete with saber and musket while Weir exhaustively photographed him from every conceivable angle, and allowing a wax casting of his face to be used as reference in the final rendering of the figure.

Weir in his studio with Will Oldham. Photo: Elsa Oldham.

Weir in his studio with Will Oldham. Photo: Elsa Oldham.

Unlike so many historical military statues, the uniformed figure is positioned closer to the ground, an accessible monument that reflects the contemporary aesthetic of bringing history into an easier relationship with everyday life. The open right hand fairly invites visitors to grasp it.

The installation includes an historical display with details about Colonel Oldham’s life and a plaque listing donors will be mounted on an outside wall of the courthouse. The historical display will also list the names of Revolutionary War soldiers who are likely buried in Oldham County.

The statue was cast and fabricated by Falls Art Foundry in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, which was established by Weir, Tamina Karem, and Scott Boyer in early 2017.

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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy Matt Weir except where noted.