Summer is fleeting and so are the sculptures that dot the lakefront parkland from Belmont Harbor to Grant Park. The Chicago Park District Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, which opened in August of 2012, will remain on display only until autumn 2013. The juried public exhibition—the largest Chicago exhibition of outdoor sculptures in over a decade—highlights the work of many local sculptors as well as several from out of state and one from Scotland. Chicago sculptors Margot McMahon and Ruth Aizuss Migdal are two among the sixty-four featured artists.
Margot McMahon’s “Stones” and “Hawk and Dove” reflect the artist’s environmentalist leanings. Nature and various symbols of life—humans, plants, and animals—are at the heart of her work, which has been collected by numerous institutions, including The Smithsonian, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago History Museum. Inspired by organic, natural forms, the artist transforms the familiar into images that make us pause to consider our place in the greater ecosystem. “Stones” are actually hewn from a toppled 283-year-old silver maple. Through the work of carving, the pieces of wood appear rounded, weathered, and smoothed over by water and time. In this way, “the tree lives on,” McMahon puts forth.
“Hawk and Dove” are sleek birds cast in marble. The diverse pair sits peacefully, side by side, gently reminding humans of opposing views to do the same. “Hawk and Dove,” like many of the artist’s figurative sculptures, speak of both endurance and fragility. Nature, though strong and beautiful, is vulnerable, especially to human hands.
The lakefront sculpture of Ruth Aizuss Migdal startles with lightness, frivolity, and sheer brazenness. Flamenco Revisited, from the artist’s Dancing Dresses in Red series, features the female image in larger than life form. Wrought from steel and painted cadmium red, Flamenco is a celebration of the feminine, as expressed through the joy of dance.
A former professor of art at Harold Washington College, Migdal was formally trained as a painter but turned to sculpture in 1971. The artist, who has done some welding herself, harnessed muscle from Orsolini Welding and Fabricating in order to construct her large works in steel. Without Orsolini’s assistance, Migdal explains, the physical labor would have been beyond her ability. Some of her pieces feature long strips of steel that are twisted into curves then welded to the tops of the sculptures. The artist likens the effect to “crepe paper decorating a party room.” Midgal’s exuberant ladies in red can be found in public places scattered across the country.
To learn more about Chicago Sculpture International and to view the sculptures, visit www.chicagosculpture.org.