I love Chicago more than any other place in the world. This
irrefutable fact does not mean there aren't aspects of the city
that make me a little nuts. The weather, for example, can leave a
mom shuffling shorts and t-shirts against turtlenecks and sweaters
within a two-day span. The politics are equally disastrous. And
don't even get me started on the Bears.
Yet at the top of my list of things that rub me the wrong way is
the city's choice of public artwork. First there is the Cloud Gate
(or "The Bean" as it is more commonly known), which costs $70,000 a
year to maintain. Had anyone had the sense to ask a mother about
erecting a giant stainless steel sculpture in the middle of
child-infested Millennium Park, she would have gladly told you:
"The fingerprints are going to be a holy nightmare. Why, just
look at my refrigerator. And that's just from
three kids. Multiply that by a million and you're going to
be wiping that thing down 24-7. No, no. Bad idea. Start
But nobody asked a mom, so now Chicago is on the hook for
keeping the Bean all shiny and tourist-ready for the next million
Then there is the Chicago Picasso. While I enjoy many of
Picasso's paintings, the giant baboon-looking sculpture in Daley
Plaza gives me the willies. I also can't shake the feeling that
Picasso stuck it to my hometown. He never named the work. He never
revealed its meaning or theme. Picasso never even bothered visiting
Chicago to check on its final completion.
I would venture to say that at the end of the day, Picasso
punk'd us all.
So when my son Daniel announced his selection for his
2nd grade city landmark assignment, I had to bow out.
You guessed it: The Chicago Picasso. I refused to taint my
son with my own bitter dislike for the giant baboon. I instead
outsourced the project to my husband.
Joe then spent the better part of two weeks working with Daniel
on his miniature sculpture. There were trips to Home Depot. There
were saws. And worst of all, there was an inordinate amount of
swearing as Joe tried to jury rig the thing together. He had a hard
time getting the bronze paint to adhere. Then he couldn't figure
out a way to keep the straws in place. When Joe finally proclaimed
just yesterday that the project was complete (with hours to spare),
I bit my lip and hid the project outline. There really was no need
to let him know that he could have just opted for the oral
So the Walsh Picasso will be making its way to school today in
an old Pampers box filled with newspaper and bubble wrap. I'm
saying extra prayers for its safe passage through traffic and
schoolyard bullies. And unlike the original artist, I have
developed a heightened appreciation for this individual work.
Instead of an ugly baboon, I now only see the imperfect cuts, the
stapled straws, and the blotchy paint job that reflect one man's
deep love for his son.
I think it's beautiful.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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