Stiletto heels

April 6, 2015; KSTU-TV (Salt Lake City, UT)

A bright pink piece of art has caused quite a stir in the small Utah town of St. George. Pink Lady, a five-foot stiletto-heeled shoe is one of a series of new sculptures placed around the city as part of “Art Around the Corner,” a city-sponsored art project. While some residents don’t like the bright sculpture, most view the shoe as a new way to look at art.

“It looks like it belongs in Hollywood, not St. George. I was a little shocked to see it here,” one resident explained. Another said, “It’s just very different than the art in Downtown St. George.” The pink stiletto sculpture was designed by Utah artist Jerry Anderson, an artist better known for his bronze Western art but not immune to controversy. An earlier work, The Rebels, generated controversy over the political correctness of the Rebels as a mascot for Dixie State University.

A volunteer nonprofit board placed the rotating collection of sculptures around St. George’s downtown. For the next 12 months, 20 different artworks, many created as traditional bronze sculptures, will transform the city streets into an outdoor gallery. The artists are primarily Utahans but have representatives from other states as well.

As with most art—and especially outdoor art, sculpture, and architecture—controversy follows. Consider the Eiffel Tower. When it was first built in 1889, Parisians were aghast. What has become the icon of a city and country was initially criticized for its design.

Consider Christo, who has also been called an environmental sculptor. His temporary artwork features monumental displays of fabrics and plastics and attracts controversy like a magnet. In 1991, he installed over 1,300 giant blue umbrellas across a river in Japan and over 1,700 giant yellow umbrellas across a mountain range in California. Other works included wrapping islands in Florida, wrapping a Parisian bridge, and stretching steel gates across 23 miles of walkway in New York’s Central Park. In 2005, The Gates was on display for 16 days and attracted more than four million visitors. These outdoor sculptures are seen by all who pass by, including many who might not otherwise visit museums.

Consider the city of Cologne, Germany. Known for its church spires, this centuries-old city boasts a huge inverted ice cream cone high atop a shopping mall. The sculpture makes it appear as if ice cream is melting down from the roof. The sculpture was intended to offer a stark contrast from the nearby church architecture.

And lastly, consider one of the newer additions to the art scene in Los Angeles, California. In 2008, more than 200 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s, once used to light the streets of Southern California, were collected and lined up in even rows outside the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Called Urban Light, all of the street lamps are lit at night. When first unveiled, some viewed this as a waste of electricity while others made specific trips to view the sculpture at night.

The pink shoe, the Eiffel Tower, Christo’s temporary artwork, Cologne’s ice cream cone, and Los Angeles’ Urban Light all demonstrate how art can be many things simultaneously. It can be soothing, inspirational, mysterious, entertaining, picturesque, or controversial. A piece of art may be easily liked or easily disliked. It exists as a form of expression and also as a way to generate conversations.

Art inspires people to think about life in new and different ways. In fact, when people encounter art on a street corner, on a building, or in a park, they form an opinion about the art—perhaps without even wanting to do so or being aware they are doing so. These art placements create something special; they allow people who may not be regular museum visitors to experience art. For people who regularly don’t visit a museum, these outdoor experiences can lead to museum or gallery visits—and even better, an appreciation of all types of art.

To quote Pablo Picasso, “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot. Others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” Or in the case of St. George, Utah, art has been transformed into a pink stiletto.

For more information, visit the Art Around the Corner Foundation’s webpage or follow on them on Facebook.—Debbie Laskey