When art is eye-catching, when it invites the mind to engage, we inevitably search for meaning. When the art is out in the public way it is constantly asking for our opinions. It must stand for our questions.
What did those statues mean when they were installed? What might they mean to people looking at them now. Yes, I think about those things sometimes. And, why not?
While, what was intended by the creators of art and what the public will make of it later are two different things, both things matter. With public art the reaction is usually all that matters, regardless of what the artist may have intended. In the art gallery world the artist's statement, which sometimes includes their intentions, carries some weight. Not so much on the street.
As you read this -- until they come down, for whatever reasons -- there is an unfolding statement that's being made by someone here in Richmond. Displays are up at the Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis monuments.
My photo of the piece at Allen Avenue (Lee monument) is above the second paragraph. It was taken on Monday morning. Below are two shots of the piece at Davis and Monument.
I took the photos of the Davis monument display on Saturday afternoon. The box you see in the photo above can be seen in the one below, too. It's in the shadow on the base. Don't know if this is still there, or not.
The boxes don't seem to be damaging the monuments, unless one chooses to take umbrage that they are there at all. Over the years I can remember, 50 or so, the monuments on Monument Avenue have rarely been harmed. Which may surprise some people.
But there have been other displays. Once Jeff Davis had female clothes, including a bra, fashioned about him. Some said it referred to the legend that he escaped Richmond at the end of the Civil War by dressing up in drag.
To read a piece I wrote about displays of another sort on Monument Avenue, but nonetheless, as political as art can get, click here for The Price of Free Speech.
Note: I wanted to get all this up right away. No doubt, these objects won't stay where you see them but for so long. More news to come...
Update: Apparently Jason Roop just revealed the guerilla art maker's name in his comment on a similar story at the Fan District Hub. According to Roop he is "Keith Mendak".
In his comment Roop seems to tie the objects left on Monument Avenue to an art show opening on Friday and an article to appear in tomorrow's STYLE Weekly. But perhaps the timing of this is coincidental.