Artist Liz Landgren reflects on Birmingham’s past while looking forward

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For the Birmingham Times
Artist Liz Landgren was asked to paint a face that represented Birmingham during the local launch of the All of Us Research Program initiative. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., for The Birmingham Times)

When artist Liz Landgren was asked to paint a face that represented Birmingham, she could not escape the wounds of the city’s past, particularly from the Civil Rights Movement, she said.

Landgren was downtown at Railroad Park earlier this month for the launch of the All of Us Research Program, which was introduced May 6 at locations across the country, including Birmingham.

Pointing to her artwork, Landren said, “I named her ‘Addie Cecilia,’ which is a combination of the names of the four little girls killed in the [1963] Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing”—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley.

Brett Schultz builds on a mosaic painted to represent Birmingham during the local launch of the All of Us Research Program initiative. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., for The Birmingham Times)

Half of the finished work will be Landgren’s painting, and the other half a mosaic created from the combined snapshots of hundreds of people who took turns posing for instant photos of themselves at the Railroad Park event. Artists used the snapshots to build a mosaic on half of the face of a girl blowing a dandelion.

The finished portrait—“Addie Cecelia and the Dandelion—will reflect Birmingham’s past but look forward, Landgren said.

The face she painted came from photos of the four girls killed in the church bombing as well as other works she has done: “As I went further into it, I wanted to create something new, a child who would be here now, who wants to move forward, who wants to blow the dandelion and create new growth, new flowers everywhere, and go into the future, learning from the past but also going into the future.

“She represents Birmingham to me not only because she reminds us of our past and its wounds, but because she is looking forward with hope and free-flowing innocence,” Landgren said.

“The seeds of our past are being carried away and begin anew with each landing onto fertile soil. The hope is that our beautiful city will be covered in new growth. What most grown-ups see as weeds, our children see as an opportunity to gleefully spread flowers with their hopeful breath.”

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