Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Fate of Statues

The Maine Monument stands at the southwest entrance to Central Park, across from Columbus Circle. Do today's schoolchildren learn about the Spanish-American War and the sinking of the battleship that led to the slogan "Remember the Maine?" How many of us remember that the explosion was actually an accident? Time eventually separates all those guys on horses and women in Grecian drapery from their historical context. In 1913 when sculptor Attilio Piccirilli won this commission, allegorical figures were the fashion. The public knew how to "read" a work of art. I circled the monument, trying to figure out which figure was Courage, which was Fortitude and which was Peace. But here's my question: Do sculptors admit to themselves that birds will end up sitting on the heads and outstretched arms of their artworks? Do they secretly plan ahead for this so it looks graceful and attractive? Let's face it, that is the fate of statues consigned to live outdoors.