I have nothing against wood. In fact, I did carpentry work for years. But there is a permanence to working in stone and steel that I always admired and envied. Perhaps this is what led Tony Soprano's Uncle Junior to once correct Tony, because Tony believed his grandfather was a carpenter. Proud of their lineage as Italian stone cutters and knowing that the family's work would stand for even thousands of years, Uncle Junior admonished him: “He never cut a board in his life – he was a stone mason.”
Sculptures in bronze and buildings in masonry certainly have a permanence that makes the design considerations a serious matter. And yet, with this and all the hoops that sculptors and architects must go through, it is often amazing the types of projects which are finally approved, executed, and installed as public art, or built as residential or commercial structures.
I developed tremendous respect for I. M. Pei after seeing a documentary which showed how seriously he took his commission to build the glass pyramid entrance for the Louvre Museum in Paris. He understood full well his responsibility for generations to come, the multitudes and masses who would see this work every day juxtaposed against the Louvre museum, and images which would undoubtedly be found everywhere. After receiving the commission, Pei asked French President François Mitterrand if he could take several months off to study French history.
Adjoining the the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in a small plaza is Greg Wyatt's Peace Fountain. The bizarre work in bronze is 40 feet tall and is an amalgam of various figures, including giraffes, a sun and moon face, a crab, lion, and lamb, all resting on a base shaped like a DNA double helix. A figure of the archangel Michael, who has just finished beheading Lucifer, stands in the center. The sculpture represents the triumph of good over evil. For a full explanation, read the inscription and see additional photos here.
The area around the fountain is surrounded by various plaques depicting various artists, philosophers and thinkers, most accompanied by a quote by the individual. There is also a children's sculpture garden with various animal figures created by school children.
I wonder if I.M Pei or Greg Wyatt are the types of men who have never cut a board?