Path of Thorns and Roses


Client: City of Alexandria, VA

Location: Alexandria, VA, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $350,000

Project Team

Art Consultant

David L. Hamilton

Design Manager for the Natl Capital Planning Commission (retired)


Mario Chiodo

Chiodo Art Development


CJ Howard


I was commissioned to create a memorial sculpture at a recently unearthed cemetery in Alexandria, VA for enslaved people who were fleeing the South during the Civil War. I depicted the story of Oppression, Struggle, Sacrifice, Compassion and Hope thru figures to express the desperation and dreams of people in search of freedom.


The memorial space was already designed by an architect and I wanted the sculpture to complement his vision. The perimeter of the cemetery was finished with an iron fence and the entrance lined up exactly with the position of the sculpture, so my design mimics the shape of the entrance. It was important to me to leave viewers with hope, even though it is represented as an unbloomed rose.


As a finalist for this competition, I was asked to make a model and present it to a committee comprised of city staff, local artists, historians and descendents of deceased buried in the cemetery. I was awarded the commission based on my design and worked with the city engineer to develop an appropriate mounting for the sculpture. This bronze monumen is 35' tall by 9' wide by 15' deep.

Additional Information

Historical artwork does have a place in our communities. The Path of Thorns and Roses, the memorial and the restored cemetery has proven to be a source of healing and opened dialogue about the traumatic past.