Artist creates huge dirt portrait on National Mall

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A giant portrait of a young man's face has emerged in the landscape of the National Mall in the first such public artwork commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.

Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada created the piece as a compilation of American faces after photographing 30 young men on the National Mall this year, he said Wednesday. The piece is entitled "Out of Many, One," the English translation of E pluribus unum from the U.S. seal.

The six-acre portrait is made of 2,500 tons of sand and 800 tons of topsoil and can be viewed from the Washington Monument — or from space. At ground level, the artist said it's like a zen garden. All the materials were donated.

Rodriguez-Gerada said he set out to create one of millions of possible faces of America, and he said young men between the ages of 18 and 25 need to be embraced. It doesn't represent a particular race, he said, but was a compilation of faces that were black, brown and white.

"Diversity is the backbone that makes this country great," he said. "This is a great way of celebrating that."

The artist used GPS technology to mark 10,000 points with tiny pegs on an empty field and then linked them with twine to create precise lines for the portrait made of dirt.

Beginning Saturday, visitors will be able to walk along the portrait's features. It will be on view through the end of October. Rodriguez-Gerada has created similar pieces in the past in Amsterdam, Belfast and Barcelona, including an image of President Barack Obama.

The soil and sand eventually will be reused to improve the National Mall's turf, park officials said. By November, the portrait will start to disappear.

"A lot of my work is ephemeral," Rodriguez-Gerada said, "because I want to talk about living in the moment."


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