Martin Firrell
The Road to Freedom Is
Bordered with Sunflowers
The artist paraphrases American author Willa Cather (1873-1947) in the line
The Road to Freedom Is Bordered with Sunflowers

The original inspiration is Cather's novel My Antonia (1918): 'Sunflowers were introduced into that country by the Mormons... at the time of the persecution, when they left Missouri and struck out into the wilderness to find a place where they could worship God in their own way, the members of the first exploring party, crossing the plains to Utah, scattered sunflower seeds as they went.

The next summer when the long trains of wagons came though with all the women and children, they had the sunflower trail to follow... sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom.'

The artist's paraphrasing seems to imply that the journey towards freedom is a blessed or illuminated one.

The Question Mark Inside was commissioned by Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral as the first large-scale public artwork in the cathedral's history. It marked the 300th anniversary of the topping-out of Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece in 2008.

The work posed the simple question, 'What makes your life meaningful and purposeful?' and invited responses from the public during the anniversary year.

The resulting texts, from the domestic to the sexual to the sublime, were projected onto the exterior of the cathedral dome, the West Front at Ludgate Hill, and the interior of the Whispering Gallery.

The work's sunflower text has subsequently become an internet ‘meme’. Any search of Twitter or Instagram will produce many references to the line illustrated by all kinds of images of sunflowers.
Part Of
The Question Mark Inside
St Paul's Cathedral London UK, 8 to 15 Nov 2008
Hi-res image
Public Artist in Residence
St Paul's Cathedral