Sunday, September 23, 2007
Beauty and the Beast: Part 2
Old timers may remember one of the first views of Hyde Park as you came round the bend at 51st Street southbound on Lake Shore Drive used to be a rather twee little pipe that sputtered water like the arteries of a severed limb into an algae-cloaked pond. Seemed, in its own way, to say a lot about the neighborhood.
Alas, 'tis no more, and for this we give thanks.
A few weeks ago our little boat pond, long languishing in a northeastern corner of Harold Washington Park, welcomed this curious, though not unattractive, gold-plated weather vane with what looks to be a rooster solidly perched on top. Aesthetes among us may recognize the handiwork of internationally renowned artist Virginio Ferrari, who has left his sculptural deposits in front of Pick Hall, as well as the Lab School, and Wylers Children's Hospital.
Transported from its former location at Ravinia, this obelisque-esque needle is a gift of Regent's Park owner Bruce Clinton to the neighborhood. Together with the refurbishing of the boat pond, and the new landscaping immediately surrounding it, this is a great improvement of a highly visible neighborhood asset.
Now, if only we could see it! After some reconnaissance, it seems that the sculpture is, somewhat contrary to our principles here at HPP, auto-oriented, in that its best views are to be had from the Drive, and then at either dawn or dusk, when the sculpture's golden skein begins to glow. A jog down the path near 51st Street offers those on foot the best views. From most other perspectives, it is rather overwhelmed by the expanse of the pond. Squinting our eyes on a balmy late summer afternoon, however, it was possible to think we were in the Luxembourg Gardens, where there really are little Parisian boys who really do have toy boats, and are able to float them without climbing over a fence. Daniel Burnham would be in ecstasy at the resemblance.
But we'll take it! It is, after all, quantum leaps above this beast, the portrait of a welder's nightmare in tubing. Another of the insults to civic beauty lining 55th Street, this hangover from an orgy in the welding shop of disgruntled Streets and Sanitation workers sprouts like some wicked mushroom in a half-crescent, neglected pond in Nichols Park.
We don't know who made it, what it's called, or how much was wasted to commission and install it. It stands as a monument to the axiom that, if enough people dig into their pockets and chip in, every neighborhood can adorn itself with really bad art. This corner is windswept and vacant, like other portions of this badly laid out though valuable park, about which more to be said later.
Nichols Park, and Hyde Park, deserve better than this.