We visited a sculpture today in Chesterfield, Missouri.
It really doesn’t get much more generically suburban than Chesterfield. Chesterfield is well manicured with several parks, many subdivisions and lots of shopping. It is not a particularly interesting or engaging place. It is a clean, affluent suburb and not much more. I was in Chesterfield today because I needed to renew my license at the DMV and take baby to her two-year old check-up: prosaic errands that further illustrate my point about Chesterfield. We had time to kill in between the two, thus the sculpture-visit. I’m not saying it is a bad place to live (for the record, we don’t live there), it just seems like an odd place to install this:
Here’s the thing: It is kind of ugly.
I don’t believe art must be pretty to be appreciated. But massive public sculptures? I think they should follow at least a few rules related to aesthetics. Perhaps avoid depictions of grimacing, screaming or crying? Consider that the people who work in the office complex just beyond the sculpture have to stare at this all day:
Exactly want you want to look at when you glance out the window of your cubical! Green grass, trees and a look of panic on a giant, naked man. No matter what the interpretation is, viewing the sculpture does not evoke beauty or joy, which may be more appropriate for public sculptures (especially in Chesterfield).
It actually reminds me of a zombie. I like zombies. One of our favorite movies is Sean of the Dead (hilarious zombie-movie, a must-see). The Walking Dead is a great zombie television series that we enjoy (despite the show’s complete lack of humor). Despite our affinity for the zombie genre, we will not be installing a zombie sculpture in our yard any time soon.
Some of Johnson’s (more well-known) figurative monumental structures are very clunky (see Unconditional Surrender and Forever Marilyn). Something seems to be lost in the sculptural translation of these iconic images. The moments they depict were fleeting. Thousands of pounds of motionless metal don’t exactly do them justice. The Awakening has more movement and interest than some of his other sculptures. But, I don’t think “clunky” is necessarily a bad quality in a sculpture.
Because I really like his tooth:
When the Spy saw my pictures of The Awakening he said, “Wow, that’s really cool.” I tried to my best to get him to elaborate more specifically but all I got was, “I don’t know…It is cool looking. I like it.”
Claes Oldenburg created some of my favorite large-scale sculptures. And how much more perfectly suited to Chesterfield would this be:
But, I am just a big fan of Oldenburg/van Bruggen, which is really just a matter of taste and personal preference. I can appreciate a good dichotomy so here we have it: The Awakening and Chesterfield, a match made. And even though I alluded to Chesterfield being a sort of boring place, I guess the sculpture makes it less so.