The doors to the Warner Chamber feature symbology of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is depicted using corn, the Naiive American’s main agricultural crop and an important food source. The Native American Thunderbird is pictured in the center; it is a symbol of life and rain. On the left features a woman with a baby standing on a turtle, which is a Native American symbol of fertility. On the right is a a man dressed in a traditional headdress, holding a pipe, and standing on an otter. The otter is a native american symbol of Medicine.
Nebraska artist, Keats Lorenz hand-carved the doors. It took him three months to carve the 4-inch thick, 750 pound black mahogany doors. Hartley Burr Alexander, the Capitol’s thematic consultant and a prolific writer on Native cultures, provided information about the symbols and wardrobes.
The Warner Chamber was used up until 1937, when Nebraska moved to a unicameral government.
About Lee Lawrie
Lee Lawrie was born in Germany in 1877 and came to America with his family four years later. As a young boy, he sketched the world around him and it became apparent he had great artistic talent. His first formal job as an artist came at 14 when he was hired in a sculptor’s studio to do odd jobs. It was at this job he taught himself how to model clay in the evenings. He would eventually attend Yale where he earned a bachelor’s of fine arts. He stayed at Yale where he taught until 1919.
Lawrie and Bertram Goodhue met in the late 1800s when the two began collaborating on various projects. Lawrie specialized in architectural sculpture, which was a direct compliment to Goodhue’s appreciation of early Gothic revival designs. The two would achieve a breakthrough in their approach during the construction of the Nebraska State Capitol. They created an approach that fused architecture and sculpture into an integrated and simple design.