Saturday, June 24, 2006

The three great statues at Graceland

After looking at the Matt Hauke's website-- I realized that there were three famous statues at Graceland -- so map in hand -- this week I went searching for them.

I guess the Marshall Field tomb by Daniel Chester French was the most enjoyable for me --- the big, sad, dreamy, statue-of-liberty --- lost in reverie in a shady nook by a small reflecting pool.

There in close covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,

Hide me from day's garish eye,
While the bee with honeyed thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,

And the waters murmuring

With such consort as they keep,

Entice the dewy-feathered Sleep;

And let some strange mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in airy stream
Of lively portraiture displayed,
Softly on my eyelids laid. (from "Penseroso" - John Milton)

O.K... I really like this statue/pool/pedastal (everything except the tepid reliefs)
But wouldn't it have been better if that gown had fallen off her shoulder, and a breast or two were showing ?

When I got to this piece, a couple (the first I had ever seen in the park) was just walking away from it, puzzling to each other who could be buried there -- because there was no name or date attached -- just the following motto carved in the granite pedastal:


I knew that the sculptor was Chicago's very own, Laredo Taft -- who taught at the Art Institute a hundred years ago, and whose students founded my art club, the Palette and Chisel -- but I also had no idea who was buried beneath it until I looked it up on the internet: Victor Lawson

Victor Lawson started a newpaper, the Chicago Daily News, when he was 25 -- and 25 years later it had the largest circulation in the country and he was a wealthy man.

And he was something of a curmudgeon. In his inauguration speech, Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson singled out Lawson as a "dictator" for attacking him so viciously in his paper. But when you read about Thompson here -- it make's you think that maybe Lawson really deserved to be remembered as a "crusader". His name was kept off the monument, apparently, because in his era, the ideal journalist was an anonymous seeker of truth -- not a player with a stake in the game. But whether this concept came from him or his survivors -- I have no idea.

But what about the statue ? It has to be called a great and ambitious achievement -- to design and execute such a thing in granite -- I'm guessing that Laredo Taft had no small appreciation for his subject -- but still -- it just looks like a big chess piece to me -- a toy that is all out-of-proportion -- a conversation piece -- a tour-de-force -- but not the kind of sculpture that gives me joy.

Here's another, and earlier Lorado Taft sculpture, "Eternal Silence" or later called "Monument to Death".

The man entombed was appropriately named Graves, Dexter Graves, a early settler of Chicago who had died almost seventy years earlier -- so I'm not quite sure what the family had in mind when they later commissioned this unusual monument.

Fun ? Yes this statue is fun -- laughing at Death as a giant bogey-man -- and maybe that's the best way to contemplate mortality. But doesn't that belong in the movie theatre or the carnival fun-house ?

It just seems like a maximum talent applied to a minimum purpose (sounds like a definition for "popular culture")


Anonymous Anonymous said...

WAY COOL!!!! THAnks for the pics and commentary. I'm visiting the cemetery as soon s I can!

April 01, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home