Striding Figure

“Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want–you go toward it. Sometimes you go very fast, and sometimes only an inch a year. Perhaps you feel happier when you go fast. I don’t know. I’ve forgotten the difference long ago, because it really doesn’t matter, so long as you move.”

― Ayn Rand, We the Living

Striding Figure (Rome I), Thomas Houseago, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Diana

“If I am forced to use a sword in combat, I just swing it around like a baseball bat while screaming, at the top of my lungs: “There can be only one!” Which, if done correctly, is surprisingly effective.”

― Sterling Archer, How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written

Diana, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

History of the Conquest

“I feel I stand in a desert with my hands outstretched, and you are raining down upon me.”
― Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt

History of the Conquest, Hank Willis Thomas, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
History of the Conquest, Hank Willis Thomas, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

I enjoyed this sculpture in particular because… well, for one it is funny and cute and a little different. But I loved it because it is a giant snail.

Titanic gastropods have interested me ever since I read that short story, Quest for the “Blank Claverengi” as a child. I’m not alone. Years ago I discovered the story was written by Patricia Highsmith and finding several copies, I wrote about it. Since then, quite a few people have contacted me to say they shared the childhood terror of giant man-eating snails.

Illustration by Jean L. Huens for the Saturday Evening Post. Done for the short story “The Snails,” by Patricia Highsmith.

I was interested enough to write my own sequel to the tale.

And now here is a sculpture of a giant snail. With a warrior riding on the back. That’s an angle I never thought of – an army of archers riding into battle, slowly, on the backs of huge armored gastropods. A compelling image – if not a very effective battle strategy.

Massu II and The Sun

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Massu II, Johan Creten … in background: The Sun, Ugo Rondinone, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The Sun, Ugo Rondinone. Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Sacrifice III

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

― David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Sacrifice III, Lipchitz, Jacques, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Sacrifice III is one of my favorite sculptures – I have seen it in several places and in different versions.

From an MIT web page:

After his escape from France in 1941, Lipchitz frequently turned to images of ancient Jewish sacrificial ceremonies, rooted in his heritage. Sacrifice III, modeled in 1949 and cast in bronze in 1957, was the final work in the series. The first treatment was a small clay sketch of 1925.

Lipchitz returned to the theme in 1943, and in 1946 began the series of drawings, clay studies, and finished sculptures that led directly to the final version of Sacrifice III. The theme of ritual sacrifice was catalyzed by the fate of the Jews during World War II.

Lipchitz remarked in an interview with Frederick S. Wight in 1961 that he depicted “a certain kind of ritual which we perform on a certain occasion. We are charging some kind of cock with all our sins, and we are offering this animal full of our sins for expiation.”

The 1943 image of this ritual was made “during the darkest moment of Hitler… I charged the animal…with all our sins and I prayed, it is like a real prayer, and afterward I had to sacrifice the cock.” The final sculpture is solemn, laden with the tragedy of the Holocaust.

I went ahead and did some research on this sculpture – primarily to figure out why it depicts Abraham sacrificing a rooster rather than his son, Isaac. In doing this I discovered that the great and famous painter, Modigliani, had done a portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife, Berthe.

I can’t imagine how cool it would be to have a Modigliani portrait of myself.

Amedeo Modigliani. Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz. 1916. Oil on canvas, 81.3 x 54.3 cm. Art Institute of Chicago.

Monumental Head

“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”

― Auguste Rodin

Monumental Head of Jean d’Aire (from The Burghers of Calais), Auguste Rodin, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Hard to Photograph

“Even chance meetings are the result of karma… Things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The most arresting sculpture in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans is Do-Ho Suh’s Karma. A faceted, polished steel man stands with another squatting on his shoulders, with his hands over the man’s eyes, blinding him. Another squats on the squatter’s shoulders, and one on his, so on and so forth. They get a little smaller as they go up and curve a little. The sculpture is only twenty three feet high or so, but it looks like it stretches to infinity.

I discovered it is hard to photograph properly. Especially, since I had ridden my folding bicycle there from Downtown New Orleans I had not brought any extra lenses (no wide-angle) to save weight, space, and danger of damage. I should have known – I have seen it before.

The sculpture looks very different from different angles – so here are a few:

Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Karma, Do-Ho Suh, 2011. Korea, Brushed Steel with Stone Base, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Liver of Love

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

― Elie Wiesel

Liver of Love (detail), Georg Harold, 2013, Lacquered bronze, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

I wanted to add the description below because, if for no other reason, it contains the phrase “mythical gigantomachy.”

from ARTUNER:

Georg Herold’s monumental sculptures remind of the mythical gigantomachy, the battles between colossal beings. ‘Liver of Love’ is a highly seductive work of art, which charms the viewer into caressing its surface with their gaze. However, there is little softness in this figure: the tension and unhuman angularity of its limbs suggest the intensity of inner struggle. Indeed, Herold himself spoke of the sculptures’ reticence towards their maker: like a diffident lover, they hesitate to yield in submission.

Herold aims to find essential forms, unbound from existing associations. It is particularly important for him to explore questions volume and corporeal presence, privileging the physical, mistrusting notions of authoritative meaning. He sees a rupture between language and appearance, and favours multiple, non-exclusive readings of his art. Indeed, ‘Liver of Love’ denies any simple reading, deceiving the beholder with a seemingly ‘easy’ title. It is a work full of ambiguity, alluding to a cataclysmic strife, and yet displaying great balance and composure.

The Mete of the Muse

“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

― Alan Watts

The Mete of the Muse by Fred Wilson, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

From the New Orleans Museum of Art Website:

The Mete of the Muse juxtaposes an ancient Egyptian female figure painted with a black patina with a figure of a Greco-Roman woman, painted white. The work reflects on commingled histories of Europe and Africa, placing works from African and European cultural lineages side by side in order to “put in relief” and highlight the systemic privileging of European history stemming from racial and cultural biases ingrained in museum display. To create this work, Wilson bought plaster cast copies of ancient sculptures and had them cast in bronze. Like the histories they represent, these copies of copies have gone through so many transitions and translations that they have become completely untethered from their original meaning and context. When Wilson presents these sculptural works, he often includes a wall label and text that simply labels them “African Figure” and “European Figure” in order to show how racial and cultural biases often create sharp divides between black and white, despite the constantly shifting narrative these sculptures represent. As Wilson says, “I find that how things shift under our noses is really fascinating.”