Skip to main content

Oliver LaGrone, Mercy

On view in the East Garden

sculpture garden 2020

Oliver LaGrone
1906 McAlester, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) – 1995 Detroit, Michigan
1991, cast from 1937 plaster
Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 1989 General Obligation Bonds

When Oliver LaGrone was eight years old, he suffered from malaria. Mercy is an homage to his mother who cared for him through his illness. According to LaGrone, “She held me in exactly the same pose I’ve carved into the statue. You see, the statue is actually a love story. My mother’s hand was a direct thermometer from my body to her heart. Her bathing me was a physical and psychological thing; it was an act of someone caring for someone else.” The original Mercy sculpture was made in 1937 during LaGrone’s employment with the Works Progress Administration for the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital in Truth or Consequences where it remains today. It was recast in 1991 for display in Albuquerque.

LaGrone moved to New Mexico at the age of 24 and received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in fine arts from the University of New Mexico. He was the first African-American to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit from 1941-42. LaGrone was also a poet, educator, humanitarian, and civil rights activist.