What ARE those things on South Tryon Street? The two metallic structures erected just past the Big O building at the bridge over I-277, are not, as you might have thought, witches-hat-derived homage to the show "Wicked." They are a gift from the Queens Table, a group of anonymous – and apparently wealthy and influential – public art donors who have brought us the Socialist-realist monuments at The Square.
Update 3:30 PM - The artist is Friedrich St.Florian, an architect based in Providence, R.I. He designed the World War II Memorial in Washington. Here's a link to a series of photos of the works being installed. The current name appears to be "Tryon Bridge Towers."
Here's a link (courtesy of the folks at CLTblog) to a presentation to the City Council in April 2009. It explains the Queens Table: "A small group of anonymous donors established the Queen’s Table Fund in 1991 to celebrate Charlotte by quietly finding and filling needs that are not otherwise being met to enhance aesthetics and quality of life in the City." (May I suggest that art teachers for CMS could be an unfilled need for the next decade?)
Among their prior gifts, in addition to the four statues at The Square, are the Queen Charlotte at the airport (often described as "going into the lane for the layup") and "Aspire," the bronze on Kings Drive outside the Temple of Karnak-sized new Central Piedmont Community College building. I have come to love the airport statue, I confess. "Aspire" will have to grow on me. The things at The Square are an embarrassment, art as envisioned by aging CFOs, perhaps. (No I don't know who really selected them.)
I am checking in with Jean Greer, Vice President of Public Art at the Arts & Science Council to see what she knows. (Update: Jean tells me the project didn't go through the ASC Public Art Commission although she knew about it through Charlotte Center City Partners. It sits on N.C. DOT property, she says. The N.C. DOT is in the process of crafting an art policy for state rights-of-way.)
Jean is one of the lucky souls who gets to stand up at occasional City Council dinner meetings and give presentations on current public art projects and endure silly jokes from council member Andy Dulin and – for the 14 years he was mayor – Pat McCrory. McCrory buttonholed me last week at the James Jack statue unveiling to say he requires two things of public art for him to like it: You don't have to be high to "get it" and it shouldn't be something a 5th-grader could do. He approved of Chas Fagan's James Jack statue.
I don't know about this new work. At first, as I went past for several weeks I kept thinking it was some odd NCDOT construction equipment abandoned to the weeds. Then it became clear it was "art."
Pardon me for sounding like McCrory but this one reminds me of robotic equipment, as portrayed on "The Jetsons," or possibly a depiction of the trash compactors on Darth Vader's Death Star. It does not make my heart soar. If anything, it destroys any soaring my heart might have been inclined to do. (Not that a soaring heart is likely as you walk across the bleak, Sahara-like I-277 bridge.)
Annual cost to the city, for maintenance, such as mowing, planting, electricity: $ 8,450.