This spring, Brooklyn College Art Professor Patricia Cronin‘s sculpture, Memorial to a Marriage (2002), has been chosen to be part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery‘s 50th Anniversary New Acquisitions exhibition.

Called an “icon of the marriage equality movement” by the Smithsonian, the larger-than-life-size bronze shows Cronin and her partner, artist Deborah Kass, in a loving embrace. The work was created in the style of nineteenth-century mortuary sculpture.

Made at a time when Cronin and Kass could not legally wed, (they have since married), the sculpture was created as a commemoration of their relationship, as well as a critique of the lack of real (as opposed to allegorical) women in public sculpture, and the near total absence of public art by women in American cities.

“I used a ‘nationalist’ form—American Neo-Classical sculpture—to address what I saw as a federal failure,” Cronin told the Smithsonian, “and I made a double portrait funerary sculpture because the only legal protections gay people could have were wills, health care proxies, and power of attorney documents, and those didn’t celebrate our life together but the end of it.”

A two-time recipient of the Brooklyn College Tow Professorship, which provides $25,000 to the awardee in support of exceptional new and ongoing projects, Cronin gained notoriety in 1993 for “Girls” and “Boys,” two mixed-media series of Polaroids and watercolors that showed sexual intimacy from the vantage point of the participants. Since then, she has continued to explore such themes such as gay and lesbian representation, the recovery and writing of women’s history, the relationships between feminism and contemporary art, and social justice and the human condition.

Memorial to a Marriage can be viewed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. through November 2018.