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Woodworking: Public art work conjures up images of one buxom babe

In the 10 years I've lived in this fabled city, nothing has occasioned so much controversy as the new statue in Veteran's Park.

Not the lawn chairs on Second Street four days before the annual River Falls Days celebration; not bump-out curbs; not icy brick crosswalks; not parking at the university; not the new toilet-rich city hall; not even the sign outside town that assures visitors we're trying to be inclusive.

Nope, that statue takes the cake.

Its sculptor has to be pretty excited about the public response, which has probably been more vocal than those who enthused about that Picasso in Chicago's loop or those big heads on Easter Island.

Maybe "enthuse" is the wrong word, at least not inclusive enough for River Falls.

To be sure, many are very excited about the statue and are quick to tell you what it all means.

One of my very knowledgeable friends, an artist himself, says that he thinks it's OK, but admits that he may be more tolerant than most folks because he's seen so many weird artistic efforts in his life.

I've also heard more negative appraisals along Main Street in grocery stores, barbershops and defunct pawnshops.

One of the less enthusiastic remarks came from an individual who will go unnamed because he values his life. This gent said, "There were five finalists and this is the one they picked. What in ---- must the others have looked like?"

I think you'll agree that's pretty negative and this gentleman should not be given a job as head of the local Chamber of Commerce.

As for me, I really can't say because I received a "B-" in art appreciation from Professor Alden McMullen at Wisconsin State College-Eau Claire back in 1957 and haven't learned much since.

But I do know what I like. (Ever hear that before?)

And one thing I really do like is the new look of Veteran's Park. When the Rotary set out to spruce it up, I shifted into negative gear and said it was too small to spend so much money on. But then it was finished and I was impressed.

And then they put up the statue.

I must say I was somewhat disappointed, partially because I almost drove off the road and jumped the curb when I saw it. The reason for my surprise, of course, were all those pastel colors that some, but not all, might say clash with the beautiful buff colored brickwork.

Others have voiced similar objections, that those colors are a traffic hazard and also seemingly have little to do with the environment that surrounds it.

But I like to look at the positive side. If accidents increase because of its presence, we won't have to throw it away. I assume it can be unbolted and placed at some more appropriate site.

Perhaps as a statue in front of Donny Jackelen's auto body repair on Hwy. 35 because many of the elements of the sculpture are reminiscent of the colorful fenders, hoods and trucks that used to grace Studebaker Larks back in the 1960s.

Perhaps the biggest objections I have heard come from people who thought it was supposed to have something to do with veterans because it was placed in Veteran's Park. To be sure it bears little resemblance to a bronze statue of General George S. Patton or even General Mark Clark.

At first I felt that these veterans were being small-minded for not realizing that there was no intention of putting a veteran-related statue in Veteran's Park, that such a structure would later be constructed at Greenwood Cemetery.

Later, however, I came to the conclusion that these veterans were dead wrong from the get-go. That occurred when a friend, an artist in his own right, dropped in, a friend who has from the beginning defended the statue.

This is what he said: "I've been looking and looking and looking at that statue, and finally I've figured out what it looks like. It shares the same conformations as Mae West."

As you may recall, Mae West was a big favorite of veterans of both World Wars I and II and even had a life jacket named after her.

I rest my case.

Dave would like to hear from you. E-mail him