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He said the Rizzo controversy was nowhere in his mind as he worked on the piece.

“The curators asked me to consider Philadelphia and its history, its people, and its neighborhoods and ask myself how I would commemorate the city in a monument,” said Thomas, who is the son of two noted Philadelphia natives, photographer and New York University scholar Deborah Willis and jazz musician and film producer Henry “Hank” Thomas Sr. Thomas and Golden did not originally envision the Afro pick as a companion to the Rizzo statue.

“I have always been drawn to public art,” he said, “and the question of how a city or a nation, how a government sanctions a monument and of how that validates a specific perspective.” Monuments offer “the official perspective,” he added, “but the official perspective is always changing and it can often be changed by …

artists.” So if not Rizzo, then what did inspire and Market Streets.

Push Thomas toward political discourse, and he’ll remind you that his artwork is deeply embedded in his life, not just in ideas.

Pop Art, he said, helped define his experience of the city as a child.

I remember realizing this wasn’t a regular comb, it was made specifically to dig deep into wiggly hair, kinky hair, natural hair.

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“This idea [Oldenburg had] of taking up the mundane or ordinary object and giving them monumental value is something that has always been important to me.” provocative is that object the artist has chosen to lift up into the ether of art is specific to a minority population and specific to a certain era in that community’s fight for recognition, said Thomas.“My mother’s father was a Philly cop, and so were two of his brothers,” said Thomas.“My grandfather actually was at the police academy with Rizzo.” Thomas got a taste of both sides of the Black Power movement.The spot was chosen a year ago, before controversy began to swirl this summer about whether the statue of the mayor should be removed.Thomas did not find out until later that his piece would be twinned with the Rizzo statue.

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