Weiming Chen knew it would be tough to finish a 20-foot statue commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests in a month.
But democracy and his native China are important to him, so he accepted the task.
He at least knew he could work on it morning, noon and night, because he created the sculpture in the two-story foyer of his Las Vegas home.
The "Statue of Democracy" was essentially done Friday, towering over the staircase in the middle of a makeshift scaffolding made of ladders and two-by-fours.
The clay figure will serve as a mold for fiberglass pieces that will be assembled in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the anniversary of the massacre that ended seven weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.
"They wanted China to be a democratic country like the United States," said Chen, a sculptor who has lived in Las Vegas since August. "I made this for the memory of Tiananmen Square."
The sculpture, which has elements in common with the Statue of Liberty, is a tribute to a rough plaster statue that demonstrators built in Tiananmen Square. A tank destroyed it.
Chen left China a few months before the demonstrations and went to New Zealand, where he spent 18 years sculpting. His works include a statue of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to peak Mount Everest, and a bust of the Dalai Lama.
Chen left behind a good job planning sculptures for public spaces, but he wanted to be "more free."
That's what he wants for his country as well. He's got a gift planned for when that happens: a 200-foot version of his sculpture that would be placed in Tiananmen Square.
"Once the Chinese become a free country, I'm prepared," Chen said, adding, "I'll have to have a big studio. Not a house."
Chen took the assignment from Yang Jianli, who was at the 1989 protests and has gone on to become a prominent activist and chairman of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century.
Jianli is walking 500 miles from Boston to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the anniversary.
Chen's trip is longer, but at least he's going by car. After unveiling the statue on Wednesday he hopes to find a permanent home for it in New York or Los Angeles.
His affiliation with Jianli and his pro-democracy stance mean that he probably can't return to China until major changes take place.
That may take a while, but he's optimistic: "The Chinese people are very patient."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate @reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.