Pierogi as public art? Sorry, but this is terrible.
Wait? Canada already *has* a pierogi-on-a-fork statue?
I'm all for public art in theory (see "Do You Really Want to Do That in Public?" Minnesota Monthly, April 04)...just not always in reality. At its best--the Maya Lin at the AmEx building, the glass installation at the Franklin St. light rail stop, the Grain Belt Beer sign, the Walker/Loring bridge--it enriches the city's beauty and character. At its worst--the earth mounds at the courthouse plaza, the alien-like creature in Lowertown, the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall, and don't even get me started on the Snoopys--it's overly commercialized or just plain an eyesore.
I just saw something in the Star Tribune about artist Jeff Lohaus's idea to celebrate northeast Minneapolis's cultural heritage and diversity by placing a 17-foot bronze-and-brick pedestal at Central and Lowry and topping it with a fork-pierced pierogi. And, I'm sorry, but this is one of those for the latter category: It's a horrible idea--and seemingly not even an original one.
For those unfamiliar with pierogi, they're Eastern European dumplings, popular with northeast's first immigrants. The idea that dumplings are basically universal to all cultures--in the form of empanadas, potstickers, etc.--is what the artist suggests makes the pierogi a good symbol to encompass the neighborhood's current immigrant populations.
I'm all for the symbol. Just not the execution. Check out this photo of the model (and also watch the video where Lileks confuses a Kramarczuk's employee who thinks he's giving her the model as a "best pierogi" award).
As an artistic concept, it's pretty banal. As a visual symbol, it's worse--the pierogi just looks like a blob. Aesthetically, it's not only ugly, but, far worse, it's uninteresting. A Strib commenter puts it this way: "I love pierogis, but there is no more art in this than a lump of poop, which it resembles. Hey, everybody poops! We should immortalize and celebrate this!" Chicago has its silver jellybean--its striking, interactive, and produces some of the coolest skyline views--and we have...a pierogi.
Fortunately, Lohaus has raised only a small amount of the $100,000 the pierogi would require and I'm hoping he'd consider another suggestion. Why not take the pierogi symbol, and instead of commemorating it in cast metal, spend the $100,000 on hosting a neighborhood pirogi feed where NE residents new and old--of all cultural backgrounds--could get together and develop more personal connections? I think a shared meal would be a better way to strengthen community relationships than an awful metal lump.
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