Friday, June 15, 2012

What's a Huge, Inflatable Ketchup Bottle Doing in the Middle of the Park?

City Hall Park is one of my favorite places to sit.  Early mornings are especially nice before it fills up with people.

The fountain gracefully arches its water from four corners into the center, creating a continuous flow of refreshing sounds. Gas lamps flicker on both sides, reminiscing about earlier years. Sunlight filters through crowded branches; flowers brighten shaded corners.

Most benches are empty, with only an occasional person walking though on the way to work, or to Starbucks for that second cup of coffee.  In the quietness, I can actually hear birds singing.  If I'm very still, an especially curious sparrow will perch beside me and strike up a conversation.

That's when I first heard about the ketchup bottle.  The birds were all a-twitter about it, in their old-fashioned, pre-cell phone kind of way.

"Have you seen it?" one of them chirped.  "It's unsightly, takes up the whole space."
"Yes, and they even call it art!" replied another, his beak upturned in haughty disbelief.

Hurrying to catch up, I followed them to the Park Row entrance.

There it stood, towering above me like a mini red skyscraper in the middle of precisely planted
shrubs. . .  a gigantic ketchup bottle.  A lady, sipping her cup of Starbucks, joined me as we stared higher and higher, towards the smiling face at the top.

"What is an inflatable ketchup bottle doing here?" she asked.
"I have no idea," I answered, then noticed a powder blue plaque out of the corner of my eye.

The bird was right. It's art.

I began to scout around and discovered other powder blue plaques scattered around the park.  I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt, with most of the sculptures tucked under trees or even stretched out across the ground.  One that I found particularly intriguing was a speaker's lectern, seemingly waiting for a speaker.  The plaque states that the artist "amplifies its symbolism by placing it in a public place, making it accessible both as a physical object and a vehicle for communication."

                                           "Now, Speak! 2011" by Amalia Pica

I won't spoil the fun for those of you living in New York City, or visiting before the exhibit ends on November 30, 2012.  You can enjoy searching for the other sculptures yourself.  If you won't be in the vicinity before then, you can still see the pieces on the website Common Ground.

The sign on the City Hall Park gate indicates that there are 10 sculptures.  So far, I have found only nine.  The birds and I continue to search for the last one while we engage in an on-going dialogue. . .
"What is art?"


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