Trashing Public Art (update)

By Mike Welsh

I posted a piece on the touchy topic of public art late last year but today I serendipitously  come across another piece of public art – some call it Graffiti-which IMHO is sadly hidden from most members of the public.  I know there’s an edgy,underground mentality attached to graffiti but I think this work deserves wider exposure than it will receive on the cluttered ,cold, grey cement wall of a bridge overpass .

"This Graffiti is so refreshing"
“This Graffiti is so refreshing”

(origional post on public art)

Let’s do a little trash talkin’ on public art. We call trash rubbish in Australia. Not all public art is rubbish and not all rubbish can be public art. But, while in Canberra our public art is often rubbished, in  Canada I witnessed a fine example of public art which was rubbish. A large friendly dinosaur filled with all manner of discarded trash including mobile phones, computers, shopping trolleys, metal car wheel rims, tyres etc, sits in front of Science World, False Creek,Vancouver.

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But that genre of Public art probably won’t get the good citizens of the village in a lather of sweat over its appeal and functionality. The “norm” in the public art debate appears to be the “weird” or abstract angle. Then, and only then, does it become “controversial”. Controversy, if powerful enough, draws attention both to the work of art and the artist.

I proudly wear the badge of  Philistine in matters art, particularly public art. I know what I like when it comes to art. And I don’t like this. “Rhizome”,a $750,000 sculpture by Richard Goodwin, is supposed to represent a type of grass but has been a hot topic of discussion in the Nation’s capital since its installation over five years ago.

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There is a piece of PA that I do like. In fact I think it’s cute (that’ll go down well in some circles) A Bunyip at the Gungahlin Public Library forecourt.


I’m wondering if the “siting” of Public Art is relative to the appreciation factor, if there is such a thing. Or is it that an association with a nearby activity makes it more pleasing to the discerning eye? An example would be the bunch of large, red pieces of steel welded together in Crissy Field, San Francisco, by artist Mark di Suvero. The idea is to reflect the famous structure in the distance, the Golden Gate bridge, and is best viewed from a distance.

Possibly that’s the clue. View all art from a distance or “squint” your eyes as you do.