banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hideous Public Art

I'm starting a feature here called "Hideous Public Art" which will provide an opportunity to comment on various works of art erected in public spaces that visually assault harmless citizens just trying to go about their business.

Today's example comes from Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick. It is a life-sized sculpture called "Sharing Land and Sea" and is installed around a picnic table outside the main visitor centre.

The work depicts a Micmac Indian woman and her child sharing a basket of blueberries with a French-speaking Acadian settler and an English-speaking farmer. A map of Kouchibouguac is spread out between them, and ominously the Acadian has plunked a large crucifix down on one corner, pointing like a dagger at the heart of the park. The plaque accompanying the work tells us that "today, these people often share their table with a more recent arrival - you, the park visitor".

Not only is this piece hideous - it looks like it was done by a bored high school art class as a project - but it is accompanied by a cloying political message about being thoughtful stewards of the land. There is a not-too-subtle visual message that the natives are the only true guardians of the park; the Micmac woman is seated magnanimously with the map spread out in front of her while the whites look on enviously. So, all you white visitors - don't forget to pick up your guilt package in the visitor centre.

This sculpture combines some of the worst characteristics of bad public art: it's poorly executed by an artist with apparently limited talent, it's visually gimmicky like a bad editorial cartoon in a local weekly paper, and it has a stern moralistic message intended to make the viewer feel guilty. Plus, it's an ugly intrusion in a beautiful natural landscape.


Anonymous said...

Too many 'artists' want to teach us a lesson. Boring, government funded 'artists'.

Olivier said...

Brilliant. Please post some more!

motherof2 said...

The man sitting on the table is my father who posed for this artwork and the art that you say looks like it was done by a bored high school art student was a good family friend. But as they say to each of their own.