Here is a brief statement about the sculpture and its place in Lee Kelly's career, written by Randal Davis.
Akbar's Elephant 2000
15' 4"h x 12' 3"w x 8' 2"d
Akbar's Elephant is a signature work in Lee Kelly's long and acclaimed career. Akbar's Elephant was made in 2000 and sited in the garden at Leland Iron Works, his home and studio outside of Portland, where it seemed to tramp out of the jungle on a journey of its own.
Reflecting Kelly's fascination with India, where he has traveled extensively, Akbar's Elephant also marked an important turn in his career. While he was, and remains, an essentially abstract artist, the work's explicit figuration is unmistakable, and the whimsical play with his characteristic architectonics remains an important element of his work (as in, for example, the Pavilion and Goddess works of 2014).
At the same time Akbar's Elephant represented a radical look forward in his work, it also recalled the earliest years of his career, particularly a series of small sculptures and mixed-media works on the image of the Minotaur and the highly stylized bird sculptures of the early 1960s.
The sculpture was inspired by the Indian emperor Akbar The Great (1542-1605). During his reign, he united much of the Indian subcontinent through mostly political means, especially marriage to princesses from rival kingdoms. Akbar moved his royal court several times, using as many as 90 elephants to transport all his wives and concubines. Akbar's Elephant is a playful take on the procession of elephants and ladies from Agra to Delhi.
In its new home, Akbar's Elephant may inspire a golden age of religious tolerance and great cultural achievement, much as Akbar The Great did centuries ago.