LC Van Savage
Statues I Have Loved;
Some I Have Seen
Sculptors, as anyone knows, are amongst the hardest working of artisans. Theirs is a labor-intensive vocation and they are probably the most focused and single-minded of all artists. They plan and sketch, go out and find the exactly right slab of exactly right stone or marble, haul it back to their place of carving, set it up, clean it off, and finally, they begin to carve with mallet and chisel. Bit by bit, the thing they wish to "free" from the stone begins to appear and take shape. The sculptorís muscles ache. Their lungs and eyes fill with stone dust. The work is exhausting but fulfilling even tho the sculptor knows that unless this was a commissioned piece of sculpture, the chances of his or her selling it may be zip city. And then after months of work, thereís always the potential for one major ooops with the chisel, and the great work of art becomes a driveway.
So then tell me, why have those sculptors carved their mighty statues, often really huge things, with lots of detailóintricate facial expressions, flowing hair and gowns, spears, heroic poses, great books, fig leaves, noble animals, chivalric warriors, ravishing, partially draped Amazonic women---why are so many of those statues placed on the very tops of enormous buildings where no one can see them properly, save through a pair of high-powered binoculars? I mean whatís the point of that? Those sculptors work for sometimes years to produce these statues, go through the unveiling ceremony attended sparsely by those forced to show up, like maybe by a couple of the patrons who commissioned the work, and then see this artistic endeavor get hauled to the tip of a dome to preside over earthlings who donít care and canít see it anyway, and most especially not on foggy days.
Why did they bother to carve the thing, if just to sit for eternity on top of a building and be invisible? Who cares if a noble half nude woman in a draped and drooping toga that begs safety pins is raising her spear with a mighty arm toward the heavens to protest the insanity of war? Her message is quite lost when the human eye just canít see her impassioned expression, much less read the flowery inscription carved on the pedestal beneath her.
Well, you may say, one can see those statues from airplanes. I donít think so. Arenít their laws out there denying pilots the right to cruise close enough to statue-decorated edifices to gaze into the sculptureís stone faces and observe their hairdos? If not, there sure should be. Besides, an awful lot of those statues were carved way, way before the invention of the flying machine was even a twinkle in Orville or Wilburís eyeball. Up went those mighty statues, to be seen only barely and in squint to spend the eons as perches to high-flying birds, and to also be pocked by the elements. What a sad waste.
I have a favorite statue story which Iíll tell here and I hope with some delicacy. I had the very good fortune years ago to visit good friends in Beverly Hills. One night they took me to dinner and as usual, as we drove I was gawking at the mansions and endless Rolls Royces and in general looking and sounding like a total hick-dweeb. Nudging each other gleefully, my hosts drove me by an enormous old mansion, once owned by some big Hollywood muckymuck and advised me to pay close attention to the statuary, of which there was an enormous amount. The entire estate was surrounded by a low stone fence and at each heavy post and corner stood a larger than life male statue in various poses, facing the traffic, and every man- jack of them bare as a cueball. Not a single fig leaf! No strategically draped stone fabric. Nope, everything they had was right out there for the folks driving by to enjoy, be horrified by, or to modestly turn from. And, as if that were not enough, the new owners of that huge house had decided to apply some extremely bright pink paint to certain parts of all of the males, and I leave it to you to figure out which. It was a screamingly funny sight although pretty dangerous because drivers were slamming on brakes while they pointed, laughed or shrieked. I donít believe Iíve ever seen anything quite so hilarious as those statues. My hosts advised me that the Beverly Hills citizenry were outraged, had petitioned, and had written to newspapers, but the owners of the home were within their constitutional rights which state that anyone who owns statues can paint with bright colors any body parts of their statues as long as itís done on oneís own private property.
When I went back a couple of years later, my hosts showed me that the mansion had mysteriously burned to the ground and all the boy statues had been toppled and smashed, pink paint and all. OK, Iíll admit it. Those beautifully decorated statues may have been a little tacky, but at least you could **see** them.
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LCís book of poetry "LCís Take Ė Poetry Ė I" is at local bookstores.
Hear her on "Arts Talk with Ann and LC" on WMPG-FM, 90.9 or 104.1 or on the Internet www.wmpg.org.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.