Monday, August 15, 2011

Public Art or Public Disgrace?

I am an art dummy, one of those uncultured dweebs who can say only “I know what I like, and I don’t like that.”  I can look at the art created by our daughter, which adorns the walls of our home, and say with satisfaction that I like it and enjoy it, but I cannot tell you why.

Such is the way it is with the object pictured above, a phallus thrusting into the sky near Camp Randall Stadium, an abomination called “Nail’s Tales”, a monstrosity created by UW art grad Donald Lipski for two hundred grand and installed in 2005.  Lipski said it was a tribute to his UW roommate, who was on the Badgers football squad.  I can’t tell you why I don’t like it, outside of the obvious; I just know that I don’t like it in front of Camp Randall Stadium and wouldn’t like it in any other locale.

This Lipski guy is fairly well-known; he has pieces adorning public spaces in New York City, including Grand Central Terminal and Central Park; it’s difficult to find an honest-to-goodness review of his work that actually criticizes the phallic obelisk he foisted on Madison; but it’s clear that the thing is nearly universally disliked in Madison.

My friend Doug Moe has written several columns over the years denigrating the statue, and this morning his column in the State Journal says it’s time to get rid of the damned thing.  “It’s the time when an individual or groups has to seize the momentum, dig in, work hard and make history happen”, Doug writes.

Doug writes that he had a conversation with Al Fish, the UW bureaucrat who’s apparently the point man on things of this sort, and the Fish made it clear that he would not be amused at any attempt by Doug to put together an official group and start making some real noise about getting the damned thing removed.  Fish admitted he has never had a conversation with Lipski about moving it.  Some codicil of the agreement regarding the sculpture says it can’t be moved without Lipski’s permission, so I’d suggest to my friend Doug that he is well-acquainted with many of our city’s finest litigators, and one way to tackle the challenge as part of a full frontal assault on the UW and Fish to get it moved would be to have this part of the contract struck down.  I’m pretty sure most of the high-profile legal eagles Doug knows would do it pro bono.

It’s well past time for that abomination that disgraces our football palace to be torn down, just like the statue of Saddam that was torn down in the early days of the Iraq war.

Let me know what I can do to help, Doug.


  1. Hey! That's Madistan, fella.

  2. I maintain that the failure of clever UW students to wrap the thing in a condom is almost as troubling as the syphilitic penis.

  3. Colonel,

    I sympathize. I empathize. I feel your pain.

    Why? Because we have our own god-awful public sculpture up here (Appleton): the "Fox River Oracle" by Dmitri Hadzi. About as meaningless as meaningless gets.

    The Town Crank

  4. Yes it is a shame that some clever student hasn't thought of a way to "enhance" that thing yet.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly. When I first drove past this thing after moving back to the area, I let out an unintentional scream.

    If you are a dog owner, you will likely recognize the resemblance between this 'work of art' and poop that has spent the winter under the snow....

  6. Footballs?! Wow, all these years I thought those were skulls.