I had the great good fortune to be in Chicago on Wednesday. I was there to attend an art lecture over at the Art Institute but beforehand, I zigzagged through intersections and people, picking up a picture of this dazzling beauty before heading over.
As a child, I regarded this Picasso sculpture with a mixture of revulsion and fear. I could get behind the glorious animatronic Christmas scenes in the Marshall Field’s windows and I could gaze at mummies over at the Field Museum, enraptured and silent, brooding over the ancient mysteries of the afterlife but this sculpture got to me. It bugged me.
Now as an adult, striding the streets of Chicago all alone, I looked up at the sculpture and smiled. No fear this time, no nightmare feelings and confusion. No, all I felt was love. This weird dim creature, part bug, part sea creature could easily be Chicago. She is a metal woman, her ribs showing and her wings folded behind, regarding us with an impassive face, silently watching the city bursting around her base. Surely there are uncanny secrets hidden behind such a visage, hidden secretly in the ribcage which we cannot see.
She dwells in a square where many people come and meet, hang out and visit. She dwells with music singing at her knees and with the produce of the Midwest too, as yet another farmer market spreads out on the asphalt below. I’m not sure how I cracked the case of fear but I see her differently now. More as a guardian, a strange sign of knowing than as a dream gone completely wrong.