Jun 07 2023
“Cather’s Vivid, Reflective Writing Has Become Synonymous with the Pioneer Spirit of Nebraska”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today spoke at the dedication ceremony for the new Willa Cather statue in the U.S. Capitol. Each state is allowed two statues of notable individuals to represent them in the Capitol Complex. The Cather statue replaces Julius Sterling Morton, which stood in the U.S. Capitol since 1937.
Click here to view more photos from the event
Additional information on the National Willa Cather Center’s efforts to fund, create, and install the statue is available here: https://www.willacather.org/statue.
Following is a transcript of Senator Fischer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
When we are here in Statuary Hall, I like to remind people that we are not alone.
If you look above the door leading into the Rotunda, you’ll see a figure. It is Clio, the muse of history.
For generations, she served as a constant reminder that our words and actions – the good and the bad – would be judged by time and leave a lasting mark on the nation.
Today Clio welcomes one of Nebraska’s finest literary artists, Willa Cather.
“Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet.”
This quote, attributed to Cather, is an apt summation of the author’s life and work.
Cather’s vivid, reflective writing has become synonymous with the pioneer spirit of Nebraska.
Her fiction—epitomized by the Great Plains novels O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia—truly feels like it grew from the soil of Nebraska.
Cather herself grew from that land. Her family settled in Red Cloud while she was still a child, and her imaginative mind put its roots down there in Webster County.
For decades until her death in 1947, Cather was unable to shake her creative spirit away from its home in the open plains of the heartland.
The unveiling of Cather’s statue is especially poignant for me, because Cather’s fiction is not the only art to grow out of the land beneath her feet.
In 2006, my sister-in-law Nadine McHenry’s art was selected as part of the annual Willa Cather Conference organized by the Cather Foundation.
“I am a Nebraska painter and my feet stand on the same prairie grasses that Cather stood on,” Nadine wrote of her painting exhibition.
Nadine’s impressionistic paintings are a blend. They blend an imaginative representation of Cather’s prose with Nadine’s own personal experience on our family’s ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills.
Four of the paintings—“Longing,” “Isolation,” “Pioneering the Way,” and “Way Ahead”—draw new vigor out of Cather’s century-old works, each created as an expression of a different quote by the novelist.
Nadine’s art illustrates the profound resonance of Cather’s writing for those of us who call Nebraska home.
That resonance—the talent and imagination immortalized in Cather’s indelible novels—is what endows her with the significance to be placed in the U.S. Capitol as a representation of Nebraska’s best.
I’ll end with words from Cather’s “Song of the Lark,” words that strike a sense of understanding into the heart of any Nebraskan who has read her work.
“What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself?”
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