David Dahlquist and Matt Niebuhr with RDG Dahlquist Art Studio
“weight of your heart, weight of a feather”
Corten Steel, limestone, aluminum, bronze alloy and LED lighting
Dedicated April 18, 2017
Leawood Justice Center Tomahawk Creek Parkways and Town Center Drive
Commissioned by the City of Leawood In the weight of your heart / the weight of a feather, artists David Dahlquist and Matt Niebuhr address the topic of justice with a very contemporary look. However, their visual imagery was inspired by much older sources.
According to the artists, their goal was to address “the origins of the concept of justice.” The oldest and most notable image that influenced them is the use of a balance scale to represent the “scales of justice.” One famous example appears in a small Egyptian painting in the British Museum that commemorates the death of a man named Hunefer. Hunefer is pictured being judged by the gods that were worshipped in his time and place 3,500 years ago—about 1,500 years before Christianity began and 2,000 years before Islam was founded. The Egyptian gods use a balance scale to weigh Hunefer’s heart. If his heart is lighter than or equal to the “feather of truth” in the opposite weighing pan, then he is deemed worthy of eternal life.
Other visual elements in the weight of your heart / the weight of a feather result from the artists being asked to incorporate the surrounding landscape into their design. In their research, Dahlquist and Niebuhr learned about a field of knowledge known as floriography, or the “language of flowers,” which flourished in the late 19th century in Europe and the United States. They discovered in floriography handbooks that certain plants have long been associated with justice. For example, Sweet Chestnut flowers were related to the phrase “Do me justice.” Coltsfoot flowers represent innocence and the phrase “Justice shall be done.” The overall concept of justice has been associated with Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans since these flowers are able to thrive if given the opportunity.
Inspired by floriography, the artists designed two panels with cutouts that resemble Sweet Chestnut leaves, Coltsfoot and Coneflowers. These two panels can be seen as the left and right weighing pans of a scale that balances on a large, upside-down cone in the center of the plaza. Like Hunefer, one might imagine here that “the weight of your heart” is balancing against “the weight of a feather.”
David Dahlquist holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics. Matt Niebuhr’s art practice is based in Des Moines, Iowa. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Iowa State University.