Martin Luther King Jr. with his father and son. Photo taken in 1963 by Richard Avedon.
There is always an element of kitsch in monumental memorials, a built-in grandiosity that exaggerates the physical and spiritual statures of their human subjects. That is one of the purposes of turning flesh into imposing stone.
According to Tomas Kulka, the standard kitsch work must be instantly identifiable as depicting “an object or theme which is generally considered to be beautiful or highly charged with stock emotions.” Moreover, kitsch “does not substantially enrich our associations related to the depicted subject.” The impact of kitsch is limited to reminding the viewer of great works of art, deep emotions, or grand philosophic, religious, or patriotic sentiments.
Martin Luther King, Jr. – I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee. Transcript. What an amazing speaker.