Metro, Column

What The Lawn Art Has to Say

In these trying times when viable presidential candidates seem more like practical jokes than real people, I try to distract myself with insignificant problems and questions.

Why does my microwave oatmeal keep exploding? And how dangerous are these microwave rays anyways—are they slowly killing me? When did the smoothie bowl become a food group, doesn’t putting it in a bowl defeat the point of it being a smoothie? Who decided to start using yeast in cooking? Obviously a genius. Is the concept of a squad completely uprooting the traditional view of friendship? Also, when did “slaying” become a positive action? But most importantly, who greenlit some of the sculptures that are outside the Museum of Fine Arts?

That last one’s actually been bothering me quite a lot recently.

For those of you who might not have seen these sculptures, there are two that definitely stand out. The first one that catches your eye is actually a duo of sculptures titled “Day and Night” by Antonio Lopez-Garcia. But “Day and Night” is not the traditional set of art-museum nudes—it is a set of what the MFA calls “monumental bronze baby heads,” flanking the Fenway entrance. This is exactly what it sounds like—two absolutely giant baby heads that clock in at 8 feet tall. They tower over viewers, many of whom probably walk away feeling simultaneously awed (because of the heads’ beauty) and unsettled (because the babies’ chubby cheeks and lifelike expressions are so detailed and realistic). Originally, the baby heads were part of a 2008 exhibition of Lopez-Garcia’s work, but they were gifted to the museum by donors in honor of MFA director Malcom Rodger’s 2014 departure.

The second sculpture is a bit harder to find, because it is located toward the museum’s rear, near the outdoor parking lot. “The Walking Man” arrived at the MFA in 2001, and is the statue of a man confidently walking across a very high and narrow beam of the parking lot gate. Dressed in a bright red T-shirt and dark blue jeans made from epoxy enamel, the statue, with its realistic proportions and clothing that seems to be flowing in the Boston wind, is very lifelike. So lifelike that when I passed it for the first time, I actually stopped and started shouting at this person who seemed frozen in terror, and tried to see if he needed help. After a few seconds, I realized that he was definitely not real, and decided that I should put on my glasses. Thankfully, no one else was around at the moment, or it could have been very embarrassing.

Now, there are actually a few more sculptures scattered around the MFA lawn, but these are the two that perplex me, mostly because they are so out of the ordinary. Giant baby heads and a statue who looks like a confident and/or petrified tightrope walker are strange choices to put on the lawn of a Boston tourist attraction and landmark. And I think what really interests me about them is the fact that they’re outside.

Lawn sculptures seem to be a lot like a person’s clothing choice, because both mediums are the information that you put on the outside. They are what you want to ensure that the world around you sees. They are the basic description of your being that you present to strangers and passers-by. Just as there is no guarantee that two people will get to know each other beyond a casual “hello” and more superficial appearances, there is no guarantee that a person will actually go into an art museum—especially if they have to pay for it. So you put the most essential art on the outside lawn.

If you put the objects that define you right where everyone can see them, then do giant baby heads and a risk-taking man define Boston? If yes, what could that possibly mean?

But maybe it’s much more simple than that. Maybe these sculptures are more meant to capture someone’s attention than to make a larger statement. Because if giant baby heads flanking the entrance of an imposing building don’t make you stop and want to see what’s inside, I don’t know what will.

Featured Image Courtesy of The MFA

March 3, 2016