This is the week where traditionally nothing happens. We go to movies, read books, see friends, watch the sports page get more and more desperate to find something fresh to say about the Rose Bowl.
And when Madisonians get bored, what do they love to do? Argue about Nail's Tales, the obelisk on the corner of Regent and Breese Terrace in front of Camp Randall, of course!
And now the public is clamoring for my opinion. (Ok, ok, the other day Dianne said in passing, "Huh, I wonder what they'll do with that." While she didn't specifically ask for my opinion, I'm sure that's what she meant.)
So, people stop your clamoring. Here's what I think should be done.
Blow it up.
That's right. Attach some dynamite to the base of the darn thing and launch it. We could make a big party out of it, which I know is hard to do around Camp Randall, but we're Madisonians and somehow we'll figure it out. People could gather to watch the event from a safe distance, of course, and there's a fire station right across the street, so what could possibly go wrong?
Truth is I never had a strong opinion about the old NT myself until I read that the artist has been given some control (how much is unclear) about the placement of his work and he refuses to even discuss moving it. Now, I say blow it up.
This gets to an actual serious point (and you didn't think I had one in me) about public art. Public art should be about, well, the public. It should be democratic. What we've got here is the classic conflict between democracy and individual creativity and in that conflict when it comes to art in public spaces I come down on the side of the common man and common woman. If most people seem to hate it (and most seem to) then get rid of it.
The problem is that most artists are used to working for patrons or selling their work to people who like it and display it in the privacy of their own homes. Nobody can have a problem with that. But when an artist insists on forcing his aesthetic tastes on an innocent people in a public space, well, that's just arrogant.
The quality of the art also matters, of course. It'd be one thing if it had been Pablo Picasso trying to force his vision on us. But who the heck is Donald Lipski? I doubt seriously that Madison will be embarrassed someday as the town that didn't appreciate Lipski.
So, if the public hates it, don't force it down their throats. Blow it up. Or if you want to be more kind, get Fred Mohs to pay for moving it the way he did the sculpture behind the old Civic Center that got under his skin and got carted away to Olbrich Park where it could do less damage to Fred's state of mind.
But then the question becomes what to replace it with. Well, of course there should be 14 committees to weigh in on this and the ultimate decision should be made in a referendum about 10 years from now. But here are some candidates:
- Hans Christian Heg: Hans stands with very good posture on the King Street runway to the Capitol. He had nothing to do with football, but he did fall at Chickamauga in September of 1863. And he was appointed by Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall (of Camp Randall fame) to be a colonel, leading the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment. Finally, this would be a big hit with the Norwegians of which there are many here including one in my own household.
- Miss Forward: She stands on the opposite side of the Capitol from Hans, looking down State Street. We could leave her there and this could be her twin sister, call her Miss Touchdown. This is one spot in our city that could use some estrogen anyway.
- Don Morton: Morton was the coach who brought us the exciting "veer" offense and a 6-27 record in three inglorious seasons. He would stand as a sobering reminder of who we are and where we came from, a humbling contrast to the majestic figures of Barry Alvarez and Pat Richter standing just down the street. Parents could take their children by the statue as a lesson in humility, "Son, this is a man who didn't understand the passing game. He now sells insurance."
- Donna Shalala: If you really want to get to the foundation of the current Badger football era it's this woman. Shalala hired Richter and Richter begat Alvarez and Alvarez begat Bielema and the rest is history.
These are just four ideas. I'm sure the 14 committees will have many more. How do I know this? I once appointed a committee to name the city's official song. They went into their final meeting with four choices and narrowed it to five. I love this town.