The lion emerged slowly.
Layer by layer, his features materialized and great mane took shape. The pounds of gypsum and drywall carved by the patient hand of veteran artist Jeremy Simons, 33, are uncannily lifelike, full of power and homage to the king of the jungle's raw power and strength.
This massive five-and-a-half foot round carved sculpture will make its home in an unlikely place: the main wall at the Mt. Juliet Police Department's relatively new headquarters on Charlie Daniels Parkway.
Mt. Juliet multi-medium artist Simons will present the magnificent sculpture to MJPD Chief James Hambrick soon as a way to give thanks and honor the city he's come to love and call home.
Significance of the lion
The layers of this sculpture are even more complex than at first sight. The significance of the lion is very close to the hearts of uniformed officers, said Hambrick. Simons gift to the department is a near replica of one of four lion statues found at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.
"It is the nation's monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty," Hambrick said.
The hallowed placed was dedicated on Oct. 15, 1991, and each year several MJPD officers attend the annual service held there to honor officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of this nation and its people.
The sculpture that will grace the police department here in Mt. Juliet will also feature the words carved below the statue in Washington.
"But the righteous are bold as a lion." It's a verse from the Bible, Proverbs 28:1.
Those words are also engraved on a small coin MJPD Sgt. Tyler Chandler brought back from the memorial service he attended in Washington. It's the coin that inspired Hambrick to suggest Simon's gift to the department be a lion.
Hand-painted images well known
Check out some of Jeremy's hand paintings on video here on Youtube
These days Simons, whose heritage is of the Powhatan tribe, is concentrating on a body of work with a Native American influence, as well as portraits and many other projects.Nationally known for his mesmerizing, massive inspirational murals created within minutes with his bare hands to music performed by his wife Lydia Brittan's band, Simons is intimately familiar with large-scale projects. For a decade he toured the county, capturing the audience's attention as he poetically painted giant images of Christ with just his bare hands. At one point he performed up to 250 shows per year.
One of his latest projects was also for the City of Mt. Juliet. Completed last summer after several weeks of late night painting, Simons created a huge mural on a bare concrete wall in the main entrance to City Hall. It's caused a buzz around the city and is of iconic country music artist Charlie Daniels, the commuter train, a local lake with a crane, a large-mouth bass, a Native American Pow Wow dancer and the city seal.
His lion sculpture has about six hours more to complete, Simons said this week. He will paint it and put a border around it.
"We have talked about me doing some large murals as well at the police headquarters," Simons said.
This artist said the community has embraced him and his art.
"We came from West Virginia and I don't think art was taken quite as seriously as it is here in Mt. Juliet," he reflected. "I'm just overwhelmed by how much it's appreciated here. I'm supported and people like to be involved and open and ask questions."
Co-op and Native American art in the future
Simons hopes to form a co-op of sorts and invite other artists to talk about their work to the general populace and perhaps even find some willing to teach art lessons.
"I've had a tremendous response from locals, emails and contacts," he said. "I envision a community of artists coming together."
When the lion sculpture is complete, Simons will begin work on another animal project.
"I know it sounds odd, but it will be a 4-foot-by-6-foot portrait of a prize-winning heifer," he said. "It's commissioned out of Colorado, and this heifer is nationally known."
He just completed a painting he hopes to title "The Final Shot." It's of a Native American, as the sun sets, searching to hunt food for his family the last few moments before darkness falls.
"Whether he does is in the imagination of those who look at the painting," Simons said.
He's also going to continue his Native American work.
Hambrick said he looks forward to seeing the lion sculpture that will soon hang in a prominent place at police headquarters.
Simons continues to astonish and mesmerize his audience, be it this newly-emerged sculpture, stage shows or images of Native Americans captured on canvas.
"I'm having a lot of fun," he said.
Check out more of Simons art online at www.jeremysimonsart.com.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.