We don’t always understand it. We don’t even like some of it. Yet there is no question that our fair city is filled with it. And not only in all the obvious places.
I used to think that art could only be found in museums, and that good art, however you may define that for yourself, could only be found in very specific museums. I’ve stood in London’s National Gallery in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, lost in their buttery yellow beauty, in awe of the painting as well as the honor of being so close to something once touched by such a talented artist. And there was that phase after having read The Agony and the Ecstasy, when anything to do with Michelangelo or marble sent me into paroxysms of joy. Of course, standing in front of David in Florence only made that phase last that much longer. I was sixteen. Can you blame me?
And my family can attest to my obsession with the statue of Peter Pan in London’s Kensington Park. I worship at its base, paying homage to the writer, the sculptor, the storybook childhood it so beautifully traps in its gleaming bronze.
Yet over the years, I’ve allowed myself to enjoy other kinds of art and the affect its whimsy has on passersby. Some of these creations have become part of the tapestry of this town; we don’t necessarily stop to admire them but we know they’re there, and they have become the backdrop to our daily activities as we go about our lives. I’ve been watching the small figure of a woman perched on a beam at the corner of fifth street and Poleline, waiting for her to leap across the narrow expanse, or perhaps dive into her imaginary pool if the beam is really a diving board. I don’t know anything about her creator, or why she’s taking this long to leap, but I like seeing her dark figure tucked between the trees as I turn the corner on my way to work and back.
And while I’m not fond of the monstrous dog head perched atop the pyramid on the corner of E & first, and not entirely sure that it’s the best choice of representative to greet drivers on their way into town, its presence did elicit various responses as I asked people what they thought of it. One young man looked up as it towered above us, diplomatically describing its colorful presence as “interesting.” “It has flare,” declared a young woman waiting to cross the street, while her companion thought the canine had “character.” One woman who wanted me to stop and talk about gay rights told me she used to think it was a duck before it was finished, but regardless of the species to which it belongs, she thinks it’s “nice to have art around town.”
I don’t particularly care for Tony Natsoulas’ Joggers either, but they’ve become a fixture on the corner of third and F streets, despite how ugly so many people have found them and speculations as to what they might be running from. They’ve been at it since 1986, when Davis PD was housed where we can now find Bistro 33. Their frozen flight made more sense to some residents then, while I can’t help but be impressed by the determination and stamina of running for nearly thirty years.
There’s a mosaic man with a fish on his right foot, standing immobile on the corner of G and fourth. And a stealth angel, a “…unique Davis thing,” according to the woman whose lunch I disturbed to ask that she consider this silvery guardian, forever gazing upon the enormous dog as children romp in the grass around her. We also shouldn’t ignore the various personal attempts of creative souls around town, whose endeavors brighten our days even if the creators are unaware of their impact. I happened to be sweeping our front path one morning, when a woman approached and needed to let me know that the seashell and bead chains hanging from our trees are the bright point of her morning as she walks to work. I’d seen children stopping in front of our house, reaching for the swaying strands, running their fingers over smooth glass and shell. Yet I had no idea that my solution for getting rid of overflowing collections would actually factor into someone’s daily dose of happiness. The owners of the house on eighth street on whose fence hang colorful bicycles turned flower planters, may be just as oblivious to the smile their display brings to my face as I drive past on occasion. Not to mention the giant praying mantis on the front lawn of a house on Anderson, a fixture I will envy come Halloween.
Whether we appreciate their beauty or are repulsed by their oddities, these creative expressions provide us with a reason to look up from our phones, contemplate the abstract, talk to each other about them as we walk, or drive, or bike on our way through this very creative city of ours.