Thursday, July 14, 2016

Something fishy.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to visit the campus of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. It's a beautiful campus, a former Jesuit novitiate on the Hudson.

I was thinking about the place after seeing a clip of the Franz Kafka sculpture in Prague, the one that moves and reforms (the "Metamorphosis Sculpture," it's called):

I like a clever idea, but it must be well performed. If the Kafka head looked like any old dingdong it wouldn't be so great, but it is a good likeness of the man, at least when it's at rest.

I was equally impressed with the sturgeon sculpture on the CIA campus, "Old Diamondsides":

So... it's a good 12-foot likeness of an Atlantic Sturgeon, right? The former staple of the Hudson Valley diet? What does it do, jump in the air? 

No, my tiresome inner voice. It doesn't do anything. It's what it's made of that counts:

John F. Sendelbach made the sculpture out of 1,700 old forks, knives, and spoons, as you can see on this official close-up (my picture wasn't as good). All those scales and fins are made of common eating utensils. The eyes are hand-blown glass. 

When I came across it I didn't know what it was---I actually had gotten lost on the way back to my car---and when I went in for a closer look I was stunned to realize that forks composed the shimmering scales I was looking at. It was one of many little gems one encounters at the CIA, and one of my favorites. 

I applaud the artist and the CIA. On its own this would have been a well-depicted fish, but the way it was put together makes it wonderful. And in keeping with its surroundings, it is appropriately a work of art done in good taste. 

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