Sunday, October 1, 2006

Puzzling public art

You can’t really turn your head in downtown Iowa City without looking at sculpture and public art. This is a fine thing, on the whole; I’ve always said that a town without random jets of water in the sidewalk isn’t worth living in, but some of these things confuse the hell out of me.   

Jane DeDecker’s “Ties that Bind”, which is outside the public library, is a case in point. It’s a statue of a guy bending over to tie a kid’s shoe. No matter how many times I walk by it, I have a brief moment of “Come on, let the kid tie his own shoes!” followed by a longer moment of feeling silly. The same goes for “Irving Weber”, made by Steve Maxon and Doris Park. Irv is the cheerful metallic man — Iowa City’s answer to Star Trek’s Data — who stands at the corner of Linn and Iowa Streets. His amiable expression always sets off the "Oh crap, how do I know this guy" subroutine in my head, until I remember that Irv is eternally doffing his hat to all passerby, not just me. 

Justine Zimmer’s “Dorothy,” the Ped Mall’s own natural disaster, could use a facelift. I suggest wire-sculpting miniature apartment buildings and a sorority house near the base of it, and tiny figures nearby throwing tornado parties and snapping pictures of the debris with even tinier camera phones. 

It should be apparent by now that I don’t know the first thing about art. I can’t tell Monet from Mayonnaise. (And why does everybody use Monet when they make an art joke?) But I know that having a thriving artistic community is a rare and wonderful thing for any city, particularly one this size. Kudos to the city for making its public spaces interesting. 

And be careful of the “Weatherdance fountain,” by Myklebust-Sears, especially when wearing nice clothes.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

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