Public art and the beholder’s vision

Public art and the beholder’s vision


Art historian Cher Krause Knight said, “art’s publicness rests in the quality and impact of its exchange with audiences…at its most public, art extends opportunities for community engagement but cannot demand particular conclusion.” Examples can be found around Fort Myers.

Most recently, the unexplained arrival of 23 large iron sculptures distributed throughout the River District that turned out to be the work of renowned Colombian artist Edgardo Carmona caused quite a stir. Can you remember a Centennial Park before David Black’s Fire Dance brightened the scene? And what better way to indicate McGregor Boulevard’s Fort Myers city limits than with the multiple public art pieces on the 10-acre campus of the Alliance for the Arts?

All of these unique pieces have Professor Knight’s criteria in common: they beg for engagement for the very reason that they don’t answer any questions. They don’t say, “Hey, look at me,” and then explain themselves. Maybe we would stop noticing them if we knew what they meant. Probably Salvador Dali wouldn’t have been so enamored with the specters he encountered at the Parco Dei Mostri (park of monsters) north of Rome when he visited the Gardens of Bombarzo.

Pier Francesco Orsini had been through a lot at the time he commissioned the macabre stone statues in that lovey Italian garden in the woods. Perhaps he was able to sort out his grief and terror in memorializing it. We will never know for sure. What we do know is there’s no particular conclusion one is tasked with arriving at when they visit (an inscription on the head of Orcus, in fact, reads, OGNI PENSIERO VOLA, or “All thoughts fly.”). That was likely the appeal for Dali, who, regardless of the conclusion this little educational video might like you to draw, probably did not utter, “This is my jam!”

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