The Chicago Picasso and Me

Picassos sculpture in downtown Chicago

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 over.”

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 years.

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 2


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 presentation instead.

The Walsh Picasso


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.

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