Deep Thought: Statue Reprise

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Deep Thought: Statue Reprise

Abraham Lincoln and a horse in a statue group.

Y'all remember the statue business? It's still going on. People from the past turn out to be 'problematic', which is fancy talk for 'we found out what you did, and we don't like you any more.' So they want to take their statues down so the future won't think they approved of stealing land or keeping other people in slavery or ruining the environment, or whatever else it was these former icons got up to. Fair enough. Now, I have trouble believing anybody's ever going to find out anything about Abe Lincoln that would make them want to take his statue down, so I used him as an illustration. I'll admit, though, that I don't know anything about that horse.

Deposing statuary is a lot of work these days. First, everybody has to argue about whether the person in question did enough bad things to make it worth all the trouble of taking the statue down. Statue removal costs money, you know. Not to mention the health insurance for the movers, who might get back injuries from all the toting.

And then there's the usual debate about whether taking down statues is 'erasing history.' Some wag of a historian is bound to remark jocularly that they really thought people were supposed to learn history from history books. That's just silly. Everybody knows you learn history from television.

And the artists' union gets in on the act. You might despise Christopher Columbus, but that sculptor never did you any harm. He or she worked hard on that piece of bronzework. It's not their fault you found the receipts on the crook up on the plinth. All in all, getting rid of statues is almost more trouble than it's worth.

Now, I was browsing the Library of Congress the other day, and I had a thought. I know how we can save ourselves a heap of trouble. We can still have statues to beautify the park and provide pigeon perches. And we won't have to worry when the next generation of historical revisionists decides we were so un-woke, we were probably in a coma. Behold my elegant solution.

h2g2 Public Art™ Presents: The Non-Representational Statue

An abstract sculpture that sort of looks like an outline tractor.

Statue 1: Generic war memorial. It sort of looks like an outline of a tractor, so if the country ever gets tired of memorialising ways to kill people, it could always ploughshare it into a paean to local agriculture. (You see what I did there?) All you have to do is change the title from 'The Glorious Charge Up San Juan Hill' to 'The Plough That Broke the Prairie.' Oh, dear: that plough caused the Dust Bowl. Well, how about 'Wheatfields Feed the World'? What, the Celiac Foundation called? And besides, it's not sustainable? Oh, well. We'll think of something.

An abstract sculpture that looks like crossed skis and other equipment. It's red.

Statue 2: Now, this abstract sculpture fairly screams, 'Higher, faster, whatever.' It even has something that looks like skis that have been in an accident. Perfect for honouring a great athlete – at least until you find out what drugs they took, or who they murdered on holiday. Then you can rename it for a mountain climber – until it turns out the local guide got to the top first. Then just rename it for him or her.

Statue that gets it just right: A Morgan horse with no rider.

Statue 3: This statue gets it just right: the horse is the best part of any equestrian statue. Never mind the idiot rider. Best of all: you may hate, loathe, and despise General So-and-So, but nobody ever blames the horse for the war.

A multi-coloured wooden statue that's based (loosely) on the Venus de Milo, called Carnival, by Jim Dine.

Statue 4: This statue is the best of all. It's loosely (very loosely, in my opinion) based on the Venus de Milo, but it isn't sexist at all. In fact, it should insult the taste of just about everyone. Give it different titles, and see how its meaning changes in your mind's eye.

  • 'She Walks in Beauty': a monument to fashion models throughout the ages.
  • 'Pride': well, it is rainbow-coloured.
  • 'Susan B Anthony Striding the Planet Like a Colossus': This will work, even if you have no earthly idea who Susan B Anthony was.
  • 'Temperance': lacking Carrie Nation's hatchet, it reminds us that somewhere, the sun is over the yardarm, and somebody's drinking something they probably shouldn't.
  • 'Amelia's Flight': All right, I can't think of an explanation for that one. But if a committee of people with art degrees thought about it long enough, they could. You can't get an art degree without learning how to fudge an 'artist's statement.'

The Picasso statue in Chicago.

Last One, Your Treat: This one's the pièce de résistance. The statue my dad hated because his boss told him they had to scale it up and fabricate it. My dad and Mike Royko were in agreement: Picasso wasn't doing Chicago any favours when he donated this mess. Now people slide on it in Daley Plaza. It has no official name and it's 50 feet tall. You can name it anything you like. Invent an uplifting motto for the thing. Post your suggestions below.

Statuary: it can be repurposed.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

23.08.21 Front Page

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