I suspected some artyfact-related shenanigans were afoot on Tuesday when I saw this curious object being reverently photographed by two people in wetsuits as it was edged toward the lake opposite Prospect Park's Boathouse.
Oh, dear. It looked like a fresh attack of Public Art. In parks, there are generally two types: the kind that sticks out like a sore thumb of artifice, and the kind that aims for homage to nature. Okay, three types, if one includes the Self-Consciously Fake Homage to Nature (like the shiny-silver "erratic boulders" that hunkered down near the Litchfield villa a few years ago).This looks like type 3.
Most of these efforts leave me cold, because they are overwhelmed by the profound, authentic beauty all around them. What might look majestic and intriguing in a loft or studio space tends to whimper and shrink alongside the magnificence of the simplest maple tree, much less a rock star like the park's tortuous Camperdown Elm (left).
(One big exception: the "Natural History" installation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden by Patrick Dougherty, perhaps because of an inherent humility in its conception. It seems content to deepen the mystery of the natural world around it, rather than ostentatiously comment on it.)
My suspicions were correct: Art, incoming. According to the park's website: "Sculptor Robert Lobe is installing three sculptures that will be on view in and around the Lullwater by the Boathouse from May through November 2011. The artist stretched, gathered and tooled sheets of aluminum around trees and rocks to sculpt the skin of the forest." Lobe, a Detroit native, is currently an artist-in-residence at the LUX Art Institute in Encinitas, Calif., and he does wonderful drawings of trees and has taken gorgeous pictures of the Boathouse in winter. He also apparently welds in the snow, which is more guts than I've got. Maybe I will come to like his aluminum tree skins; I will try to keep an open mind. Meanwhile, I'm with Joyce Kilmer.
SPEAKING OF OPEN MINDS...
...I'm hoping to meet some at this year's Brooklyn Blogfest, tonight, May 12, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bell House (149 Seventh St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, in the groovy outback that some call Gowanus and I call Park Slump). I will be "facilitating" a breakout session, along with a fellow blogger, on journalistic ethics in blogging. (Like, is it ethical to say snarky things about art before it's fully installed?) If nobody shows up, the topic will seem like a real punchline, so I hope we get at least a few souls to hash things out. It's a great program and always a good party, should be worth the $15 price of admission!