Monday, May 17, 2010

Photo of the Week: Daphne

(Bartholomew Photo)

Location:  Congress Parkway, just east of Michigan Avenue
Sculptor:  Dessa Kirk
Installed:  December 3, 2008

In the myth of Daphne, Apollo is big-time smitten with the lovely Daphne, who wants to wander the woodlands far more than she wants to mess around with some wooing god.  Still, Apollo chases after her, rather more of a hubba-la-bubbla-boomsky guy looking for a good time than an Olympian.

"I suffer a malady no balm can cure," Apollo shouts after the fleeing maiden.  But Daphne is well aware of what his malady is and wants no part of being the cure.

Losing the foot race, Daphne calls out to her father, Peneus, the god of a thousand rivers, asking him to let the earth swallow her or to change her form.  Instantly, she is transformed into a laurel tree, her femininity enclosed in bark, her feet rooted to the ground.

The myth of Daphne is an important force in Ms. Kirk's work; more of her Daphne sculptures may be seen on the east side of Northerly Island.  She explained in an interview, " My work is often about surrendering or giving up something to get. A lot of times I don't have the answer, but I take a leap of faith of what's good for me, and ask whatever's out there in the sky-- the universe to help me." [Interview with Dessa Kirk by Vittorio Carli.]

Ms. Kirk came to study at the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of 18 after attending welding school in Alaska.  She says that she never attended high school, but got her education on the streets.   She said of that time, "I'd see these sad women ride around in fancy Cadilacs. They were being sold to acquire the Cadillac's--which were seen as beautiful. Then at the end of the day, they would be hidden inside, and there was beauty hidden inside the beauty. So I bought a Cadillac, and I decided to deconstruct it and reconstruct the beauty." [Carli]

Daphne stands in a conspicuous location, facing west on Congress with a flag pole directly behind her and Ivan Meštrović's Bowman and Spearman somewhat farther behind her on the right and left.  

Ms. Kirk offers her take on the location in this way . . . "She's striding forward. It's the heart of entering downtown and there's a lot of flowing of traffic, which is like blood, and the water's right behind. So if you look up Congress going east, there's two Indians on each side and, then there's a flagpole in the middle with a triangle. To me it's like the bow of the ship. So I made this woman leaning forward like the bow of the ship leading the way. It speaks a lot about freedom and fearless and free living." [Carli]

Freedom and fearless and free living.  That's a pretty good message to send at the place where Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett envisioned the terminus of the grand entrance to Chicago's downtown. 

1 comment:

  1. Daphine is one of my absolute favorites as you arrive Downtown. Plus there are the beautiful winding plants and flowers that grow on her skirt each summer. Then the large metal flower sculptures in the park behind her. It is truly a remarkable sight. Thank you for telling us about Dahpine and her creator.