November 19, 2016

An atrocious sculpture has been recommended to be installed in our beloved Library Mall.

But it's not too late! The selection committee approved this thing...



I don't know what could possibly have convinced them that this thing belongs in the heart of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus — as opposed to some soulless glass-and-steel corporate plaza in a city — but the City Council must still vote for the thing. Please help keep this horror out of sacred space.

It's by RDG Dahlquist Art Studio of Des Moines, Iowa — art studio of Des Moines, Iowa! —  and they've titled it "Both/And – Tolerance/Innovation." And just that title makes me mad. Some design studio in Des Moines, Iowa is trying to use language to influence a bunch of politicians in Madison, Wisconsin. And they've decided there are 2 things to jerk them around over that embody what the university is hot to express right now: diversity and technology. And diversity gets to be a misshapen/unformed stone and technology is a row of sharp-edged metal plates.

If that thing gets erected — and it is phallic (and therefore disinclusive of women (or are we the lumpy stone?)) — the only question will be how to employ it in political theater and protest. Lots of places to hang signs and symbols. You know that's what we do in Madison. Here's a scene from the 2011 Wisconsin protests when somebody hung a "solidarity" t-shirt on the public sculpture that is the statue of Civil War hero Hans Christian Heg:



You see the State Capitol in the background. In Madison, Wisconsin, you're not allowed to build a building taller than the State Capitol. And yet this sculpture the Des Moines studio presents to us looks like the skyline of a city filled with skyscrapers.

Is this what we want in our city as we enter the era of the sky-scraper-building President, Donald Trump?

ADDED: How about a completely traditional bronze sculpture — like the one of Heg — of one notable graduates or faculty of the University of Wisconsin. Wikipedia has a big list of the possibilities. Just pick one. I'll get the discussion going: Lorraine Hansberry.

82 comments:

Curious George said...

That's phallic to you? Meade better see a doctor.

Bob said...

I agree, it's not as good as a middle age man in his skivvies but it is only Madison, not some upscale place like Brooklyn.

Saint Croix said...

I think "sacred space" is a clue.

David Begley said...

Ann

Find out what those people in Des Moines (Des Moines!) are charging. Then you will be really mad.

Wilbur said...

Indeed, I've always thought of women as lumpy stones. Hasn't everyone?

rhhardin said...

It needs a noose and a swastika.

David Begley said...

Sorry. Just read the link. $160,000. But it will go over. It will be $200,000 before it is finished.

Think of it this way, Raw materials: $20,000. Marketing.:$20,000. Artistry: $160,000.

David Begley said...

My buddy, Omaha sculptor John Lajba, would sculpt a great Bucky Badger for $125,000. And he doesn't live in Des Moines.

retail lawyer said...

We're in an era when "public art" should be postponed.

tim in vermont said...

Anybody remember that episode of Family Ties when Malory's boyfriend made this ugly little sculpture and Alex got the idea to call it "The Spirit of {Your city's name here}" Then he got rich? I bet that "Art Studio of Des Moines" saw it!

But there is a feeling out there among our betters that the more 'the volk' hate a piece of art they have been forced to pay for, the better it is. They should change the name though, to "The Wisconsin Idea."

Luke Lea said...

Is there such a thing as retro-avant-garde? Retro garde? We used to have an aluminum monstrosity like that in front of our public library here in Chattanooga but they finally took it down.

Ann Althouse said...

"Find out what those people in Des Moines (Des Moines!) are charging. Then you will be really mad."

Actually, it fits the budget. Something like $160,000.

You're never going to buy a big sculpture that's any good for that price. What a waste! If you can't buy something good, don't buy anything.

Original Mike said...

It belongs next to the football phallus.

Paco Wové said...

Raw materials: $20,000. Marketing.:$20,000. Artistry: $160,000.

"Artistry" breakdown:

Chutzpah...............: $100,000
Arrogance..............: $ 15,000
Vision.................: $ 5,000
Actual, you know, work.: $ 5,000
Embittered 'Fuck you, World' tax for having to live in Des Moines
.......................: $ 35,000

tim in vermont said...

It belongs at the Garden of Misfit Sculptures: http://stormking.org/decemberweekends/?gclid=CMXx4479tNACFcMkhgod-RYAwQ

rhhardin said...

I'd suggest an ash tray. It's what we always did in pottery class.

Larry J said...

In old Europe, no one was allowed to construct buildings taller than the cathedral. In Madison, no one is allowed to construct buildings taller than the state capital. Both restrictions were based on religious values, one worshipping God and one worshipping government.

tim in vermont said...

Looks like a tissue box and a giant booger.

Laslo Spatula said...

Ann Althouse said...

"If you can't buy something good, don't buy anything."

A corollary to "Better than Nothing is a High Standard."

Both fine tools for cutting through Civility Bullshit.

I am Laslo.

Steve said...

Enjoying backwater Madison looking down on slightly more backwater Des Moines.

But, but we have a decent college with a library.

Terry said...

You'll know that the patriarchy is really in charge when every statue in America is a giant erect penis.
I figure that'll be around year six of the Trump administration. Wait 'til you see what we do in year seven!

Bob said...

Ann, are you writing for The Onion?

JSD said...

Left-over studio prop from Superman’s fortress of solitude.

rhhardin said...

A vibrator instead of a phallus would make it woman-friendly.

Terry said...

But there is a feeling out there among our betters that the more 'the volk' hate a piece of art they have been forced to pay for, the better it is.
John Carey, the anti-elitist Oxford Don, says that the early 20th century modernists purposely developed an aesthetic that would be repulsive to the bourgeois.

David Begley said...

"The recommendation, adopted on a 4-3 vote, still needs to be voted on by the City Council. It would then be referred to the Madison Arts Commission and Downtown Coordinating Committee before returning to the council for a final vote, a process that will likely take a month."

Speaking opportunities exist for Althouse to object.

cyrus83 said...

This kind of ploy happens all the time. Years ago the local government decided to buy 4 statues, sight unseen, from a local artist to display at some major locations in town at a ridiculous price. At least a pair of them could be described as phallic, none were very good, the artist didn't use the materials advertised, and the local townsfolk were in a rage over both the money spent and how poor these things looked.

The artists see a mark at the university, and they are taking full advantage of some not very bright people by using buzzwords to sell garbage.

Oso Negro said...

Ha ha ha. An ugly sculpture to represent the ugly fruits of "tolerance and diversity".

surfed said...

That there were more sculptures of the Col Heg's of the Wisconsin 15th militia and notable Wisconsonites in and around Madison. I went to Chickamauga in north west Georgia last year. It's a beautiful area of of the United States. Wandering the battlefield I came upon the location of the stand of the Wisconsin 15th in that battle. They took fearful losses in holding back my South Carolinian relatives who belonged to Kerhaw's Brigade of McLaws Division of Longstreet's Corp on loan from the Army of Northern Virginia. Col Heg's regiment took hundreds casualties to stem the Condederate tide. He gave his life in that stand. Imagine my surprise when last year on one of ny inunerable and never ending two lane black top tours of America I wandered into Madison and came upon Col Heg's statue. And that I knew his story and the story of his men so far from the Dells and the lakes of Wisconsin. Well, I'm the last generation of men who know of their sacrifice to what they believed and a Union they held dear. The warmth of that casting and it's heroic gaze and steadfast stance speak volumes of the steadfastness of your Wisconsin generations past. I doubt we will ever see their likes again.

Sydney said...

My alma mater has a phallic fountain. When I was a student, people would drape it with plastic bags to look like condoms. (It's supposed to symbolize a ray of light. I think the artist missed the mark.)

Sebastian said...

"I don't know what could possibly have convinced them that this thing belongs in the heart of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus." Faux surprise again, right? I mean: it 1. is ugly, 2. costs a lot, 3. wastes public money, 4. destroys "sacred" space, 5. tells the yahoos to stuff their petty bourgeois notions about art. So it's perfect for UW.

JAORE said...

Tolerance and diversity?

How about a wall..... around a safe space teddy bear?

Terry said...

Wait a second . . . it's going on the Madison campus? . . . you mean they are putting that stupid thing on land stolen from the Menominee?
It's like Wounded Knee all over again.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

Albert Speer does Madison, left wing applauds...

David Begley said...

There used to be some horrible steel beam art pieces on Creighton's campus. Long gone. Better stuff in place including a fabulous piece of St. Ignatius Loyola in front of our library.

CWJ said...

From that angle, the lumpy stone looks like a right handed version of the Blue Fist. So it appears the artists may be pushing that button as well as the others.

Obadiah said...

Yeah, we have one of these by our city hall. It is known as "the turd in the plaza."

Guildofcannonballs said...

I have never met me nicer folks than in Des Moines.

Broke down at 34' and 20,000 + lbs. ain't my idear of no damn fun, but Des Moines made it all right.

Grand, lovely, beautiful Des Moines.

I curse that there rain though unto this day, verily I say.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, what do you know about sculpture? All you have is a BFA ...

Oh

Ann Althouse said...

"From that angle, the lumpy stone looks like a right handed version of the Blue Fist."

I thought that too.

Ann Althouse said...

I love Des Moines, but it's not an art brand that inspires confidence.

buwaya puti said...

There are a host of worthy Wisconsinites to honor with a proper statue.
Under the circumstances, perhaps a suitable memorial to Gary Gygax. It would be no problem raising the money.

David said...

UW is required to spend a portion of its budget every year on "public art." Over time this requirement will result in an inevitable accumulation of bad art.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, if you want them to forget about this sculpture all you need is to write a letter to The Isthmus along the lines of your last sentence but hailing it as an homage to Trump, the skyscraper builder. The City Council will drop it in the round file so fast it'll be tachyons when it hits the bottom.

buwaya puti said...

And there will be a horde of talented sculptors fighting for the commission for a Gygax memorial.

Ann Althouse said...

"But then most things in Des Moines in the 1950s were the best of their type. We had the smoothest, most mouth-pleasing banana cream pie at the Toddle House and I’m told the same could be said of the cheesecake at Johnny and Kay’s, though my father was much too ill-at-ease with quality, and far too careful with his money, ever to take us to that outpost of fine dining on Fleur Drive. We had the most vividly delicious neon-colored ice creams at Reed’s, a parlor of cool opulence near Ashworth Swimming Pool (itself the handsomest, most elegant public swimming pool in the world, with the slimmest, tannest female lifeguards) in Greenwood Park (best tennis courts, most decorous lagoon, comeliest drives). Driving home from Ashworth Pool through Greenwood Park, under a flying canopy of green leaves, nicely basted in chlorine and knowing that you would shortly be plunging your face into three gooey scoops of Reed’s ice cream is the finest feeling of well-being a human can have. We had the tastiest baked goods at Barbara’s Bake Shoppe; the meatiest, most face-smearing ribs and crispiest fried chicken at a restaurant called the Country Gentleman; the best junk food at a drive-in called George the Chilli King. (And the best farts afterward; a George’s chilli burger was gone in minutes, but the farts, it was said, went on forever.) We had our own department stores, restaurants, clothing stores, supermarkets, drugstores, florists, hardware stores, movie theaters, hamburger joints, you name it—every one of them the best of its kind."

Bryson, Bill (2006-10-17). The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (pp. 20-21). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of my favorite books. It's almost entirely about life in Des Moines.

Bryson was born the same year I was, so I could make equivalent claims for my hometown, but I grew up in 3 different towns.

Ann Althouse said...

"@Althouse, if you want them to forget about this sculpture all you need is to write a letter to The Isthmus along the lines of your last sentence but hailing it as an homage to Trump, the skyscraper builder. The City Council will drop it in the round file so fast it'll be tachyons when it hits the bottom."

Oh, I know. I may show up at the City Council meeting and speak. I would surely say the thing should be called Homage to Donald Trump.

William said...

I'd recommend a purple vuvuzela of towering proportions. The vuvuzela is somewhat transgendered in that it has both phallic and vulva properties so its inclusive in that regard. The purple color would signify both the red and blue populations of the state. The vuvuzela should be higher than the state capital to symbolize that the voice of the people is the high moral ground of democracy. It should be stylized and done in stainless steel because it's modern art. I'd also make it mixed media. Like the call to prayer, the loudspeakers that surround the base of the vuvuzela should play Springsteen's version of This Land Is Your Land at the start and end of every legislative session.

bagoh20 said...

I kinda like it. I do this kind of work, and I'm not an artist, so I would just call it work, which I don't think diminishes it at all. I could do the whole thing: metal, stone, laser cutting, welding finishing, and delivery with a nice profit for $10,000. The hardest thing would be delivering the stone. I could do it easily for that much, but since Althouse says that the price I pull out of my ass determines it's intrinsic value, I would max out the budget they have.

bagoh20 said...

For $160,000, I'll throw in coffee and donuts for the dedication.

Paddy O said...

They should install 40 of these things making a pathway through campus. Then it's art!

Paddy O said...

"I would just call it work, which I don't think diminishes it at all."

The difference between work and art is often just the title and descriptive plaque.

bagoh20 said...

I bet there is a swastika in that design somewhere.

Titus said...

Madison goes to Des Moines for ugly art. How red state.

James Pawlak said...

Yes, it is an insult! But, it is consistent with the insults to "academic freedom", "free speech" and, most specially, "due process of law" at UW-Madison.

(200 turns of "Primacord" about the base of that THING would do a great service to humanity.)

Michael K said...

What better place than Madison WI for an ugly sculpture with a leftist theme ?

David Begley said...

If Madison is going to go traditional, hire my buddy John Lajba. He's a a genius. Link below is good on the scope of his work. He's most famous for "The Road to Omaha." He' s a bargain at $160,000.

http://www.nebraskalife.com/Sculptor-John-Lajba/

EDH said...

It looks like the blades of one of those multi-blade disposable razors.

Will Cate said...

So... it's like a huge statue of... cellphone reception bars?

Karen said...

There was a line I read years ago from some communist document about how to take over the United States. One of the items was to fill the public plazas with shapeless and ugly art. They've gone a long way towards fulfilling that part of their plan.

cornroaster said...

First thing I thought of when I saw the picture of the proposed statue was the Fist of Anarchy.

khesanh0802 said...

When discussing art and art critics it is good to keep in mind the Seinfeld episode which revolves around "The Kramer" painting. The potential purchasers ( and artsy people as a whole thereby) are portrayed as astonishingly out of touch.

Wilbur said...

I, for one, welcome our new phallic overlords.

The phallus WILL be worshipped!

I have no shame nor reservation in saying I hate modern art, and always have. It is repulsive.

For governments at any level to be spending $160,000 on this crap is shocking to the conscience. Why not spend it on something needed, like another Associate Dean for Diversity?

Friedrich Engels' Barber said...

There's no ego like a sculptor's ego.

mockturtle said...

Now, THAT is something worthy of a spirited protest!

Bill Peschel said...

Just tell them it looks like something Trump would install in front of his buildings. That would do it.

Unfortunately, you're fighting the cultural current. When my son and I visited college campuses, they had at least one of these formless gormless wastes of resources. Lafayette, Penn State, UPenn, all good colleges with beautiful buildings, their campuses ruined (at least that part) with these pieces of expensive krep.

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, no, no. Don't tell them to call it "Homage to Donald Trump," tell them it will be thought of as an homage to Donald Trump. Emphasize how this will help attract a more conservative student body and recruit more conservative faculty. That should do it!

Yancey Ward said...

The bronze piece just looks like a fisting dildo to me, and I wouldn't bet against that actually being the artist's true inspiration.

tcrosse said...

It's a representation of Lena's Ass Snickers. Eat 'em, Madison !
Hat tip to Laslo.

Eustace Chilke said...

If you're not pissing someone off you're not an artist. What century do you think this is, anyway, AA?

Marc Puckett said...

David Begley, There is a 'fabulous piece' of St Ignatius at Creighton? That must indeed be a relic of the first class.

Michael said...

It is not art. It is not a sculpture.

Joe said...

If you have money to spend on that crap, you have too much money.

(Did I read the Madison finance report correctly: it's running a deficit? And surviving off of bonds? Yet, they have money for this shit?)

David Begley said...

Marc Puckett

Cheap shot. The guy only created the oldest and largest private education enterprise in the world.

The piece is at the link below. The artist is Creighton faculty professor Littleton Alston. Omaha has three very good sculptors.

http://www.publicartomaha.org/art/info/329/Ignatius+of+Loyola

Alex said...

Ann - you voted these people in over the decades, now reap the whirlwind. I have no sympathy.

Alex said...

Anyway isn't UW Madison pretty much Communist central? Why the shock & outrage?

Marc Puckett said...

David Begley, Whole-heartedly agree that the Society's rationes studiorum and body of universities and colleges are one of Western Civilisation's greatest achievements-- I was (obviously ineptly) making a simple-minded joke ("piece of St Ignatius"). (On the other hand, but beside the point in AA's post, I have a friend who managed to finish four years at Creighton Prep without receiving what I would consider to be an elementary level of theological education; based on that, and my own experience with some members of the Society, I think I'd argue that SS Canisius and Bellarmine are perhaps not entirely well pleased with their contemporary heirs.)

David Begley said...

Marc Puckett

I am a graduate of Creighton Prep. I thought the theology was good enough for us Omaha barbarians. My class must have had 10 enter the Society but only one was ordained and he quit about ten years ago. Maybe two "regular" priests left from my class. Those guys must have been paying attention.

Fred Drinkwater said...

No sympathy. Back in 1995, San Jose commissioned a sculpture of Quetzalcoatl, to be placed in a central downtown public plaza. Now, set aside for the moment the reasonableness of the city buying a sculpture of a god for public display...
The original concept was for a tall winged serpent sort of thing.
What we got was
this turd.

sdharms said...

yes, demonstrating is what they do in Madison. I recall the late 1970s, bombing in a chemistry building on campus killed one grad student and drove several distinguished professors of chemistry and physics from Madison. 2 came to Univ of Texas. Madison is full of people who are not clear thinkers.

FleetUSA said...

Is Madison so rich it can waste money on an out of town artist and commemorate nothing in particular?

Anthony said...

Vaguely reminds me of the Concord Spirit Poles. (Concord, CA, a bay area suburb.)

The "technology" piece is ok. Maybe they should move it to one of the engineering buildings. They can move the diversity rock to the diversity office, to represent the rocks in the heads of the diversicrats.