Monday, October 3, 2011

"La Cabeza" - Public Art

Sue and I went to see this unusual piece of public art in downtown Charlotte on Saturday. It's colorful, and slightly weird visage helps to brighten up the corporate world of glass and steel buildings which seem to house all the banks in the world.

"La Cabeza" is the creation of artist Niki De Saint Phalle, who is married to fellow artist Jean Tinguely, a close friend of Andreas Bechtler, of the Bechtler family. They are the force behind the Bechtler Museum of Art, which is located here in Charlotte. This sculpture, which is currently on tour, sits diagonally across from their famed glass sculptered "The Firebird", which sits at the entrance to the museum.

Inspired by the imagery of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, it was created in 2000, and stands 14 feet high , embedded with a colorful array of abalone shells, glass pebbles, mirrors, and stained glass. You can walk through it, marveling at the mirror encrusted interior, which includes a bench molded into the wall. You can look out from the eyes, or dangle parts of yourself out of La Cabeza's mouth. It's a friendly ogre, which is inspired by the artists interest in other cultures. The style is Mesoamerican and would be right at home in San Antonio, near the Riverwalk.

La Cabeza is only one of several pieces exhibited by Ms.Phalle and her husband. There is another walk through piece of the Cat, as well as a larger than life Golf Player and the majestic depiction of Miles Davis, all done in the same style with pebbles and glass fitted together in mosaic patterns.

It's a fun exhibit, one in which the art is clearly identifiable for what it is, and accessible to all the children who wish to climb on the figures. Public art should be fun, offering a counterpoint to the daily travails of the world around us. When placed in business districts, as is this exhibit, a downtown area can be transformed into a playground on weekends, with families strolling about while tourists take photos and children climb in and out, as well as all over the sculptures. At one point I even saw "La Cabeza" flash a smile at Miles Davis, but it happened so quickly that I don't think anyone else noticed.

The best part of viewing any type of art is the chance to indulge in some self reflection, that is, a chance to find out what any particular piece of art says to you as an individual. And what better place to do that than while seated inside the bright, and naturally lit, mirror lined head of "La Cabeza"? With the brilliance of a fall day all around her, Sue seems to like what she sees. I know I do..

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