Mahonri Young’s art journey began as a young boy modeling clay as a five-year-old, and led to him dropping out of school to pursue art (though he always loved reading). The artist consistently depicted what he knew best, inspired by the human experience. His paintings and sculptures draw particularly on laborers in different fields, including urban laborers, farmers, and athletes. Young presents hard workers as heroes, celebrates everyday people striving, and dignifies the diligent. These subjects all relate to personal experiences and interactions throughout Young’s life.
The bronze sculpture shown here, Industry, was made as a companion piece to Young’s Agriculture of the same material. The two sculptures were originally intended to be 14 feet tall, flanking the entrance to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York—he chose these subjects to highlight the role of the individual worker in the progress of the modern era. Because the war era brought a shortage of metal, only the plasters were displayed, but today we have smaller bronze versions of each.
Young’s career can be summarized by his own quote: “The challenge to every man’s conscience is to choose for his life’s work the thing he loves to do, and once he has decided upon a course, he must work conscientiously to learn all about it. There is in the heart of an ambitious, sincere man, to do well, that which in his honest opinion he knows to be right.”
This week we celebrate Mahonri Young’s birthday.