Sculptor’s take on immigration stands in Ridgefield
A statement about immigrants stands proudly on Main Street.
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art has set out alongside Ridgefield’s beloved principal thoroughfare “We the People (detail)” by Dahn Vo, a Vietnamese-born sculptor. It’s part of the museum’s Main Street Sculpture Project, dating back to 2004.
What the artist Vo has done is create a replica of the Statue of Liberty, but in pieces rather than as a whole, and displayed those pieces all over. One of them is now in front of the Aldrich.
Publicizing the sculpture’s Main Street landing, Emily Devoe of the Aldrich wrote:
“We the People (detail) is one of 250 individual parts of the artist’s 1:1 replica of the Statue of Liberty. Vo’s segmented version was never intended to be assembled, but rather to allow the viewer to experience the world-famous icon on a human scale and to reflect the idea of liberty from multiple perspectives.”
Hmmmm. Including, presumably, the perspective of befuddled passersby.
The Main Street Sculpture series has a long and memorable history, some of it highlighting the multiple perspectives to be found on many, if not all, aspects of reality — and art.
Locals who have wandered down Main Street over the years may recall a few of the Main Street Sculpture project’s highlights — some but not all of which appear to draw on the “let’s tweak the Philistines’ noses” ethic that has brought joyous giggles to a portion of modern art world at least since an inspired Dadaist thought to move a urinal from the men’s room to the gallery space wall. (Living in the age of Google, it doesn’t take long to learn that inspired Dadaist was Marcel Duchamp, and he did his ‘urinal as art’ thing back in 1917.)
The Aldrich’s Main Street Sculpture series has over the years included memorable works that a grumpy Philistine might describe as: The Greek Goddess with Watermelon; The Rats in the Trees; The Signs to Nowhere; and, farther back, The Thing That Looks Like A Hutch; the Big Baby; and, of course, enormous and much-beloved, The Thumb.
There were, no doubt, others. But these were memorable. They made an impression. And some inspired — as any contemporary artist worthy of the title would doubtless love — a bit of controversy here in this aggressively quaint suburb.
Memory suggests that the The Thumb, the Big Baby (looking a little too jolly in his diapers) and, of course, the more recent Rats in the Trees inspired some expressions of dismay and opposition from locals who felt this sort of art might be profound or provocative or whatever, but it wasn’t appropriate — at least not for being put right out there on Ridgefield’s beloved faux-colonial Main Street.
The museum appears to take the placing of strange things on Main Street quite seriously.
“It can be argued that the Main Street Sculpture Project is the most important of all of the Aldrich’s initiatives in that it broadcasts in very public way the nature of the institution, as well as acting as a bridge between the community and the museum…” Devoe wrote.
People walking down Main Street, she noted, will stop to look at and take pictures of the sculpture — often ‘selfies’ or shots with friends and family beside the artworks.
It would be difficult to argue that the pieces of the Statue of Liberty do not constitute a serious statement — and a lot of work.
The Aldrich’s Devoe wrote: “Made using repoussé (hammered metal), the same technique employed by the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi to create the original statue in 1876, the individual parts of Vo’s segmented version have been dispersed around the world and have to date been exhibited in more than 15 countries.”
And this is, after all, the Statue of Liberty — Lady Liberty, the cherished symbol that has stood in New York Harbor for 132 years now, welcoming refugees and immigrants.
It also seems a safe bet to say the sculpture is a statement on refugees since Vo, who now works out of both Germany and Mexico, was once a refugee himself.
“In 1979, when Vo was four years old, his family fled Vietnam in a homemade boat and were rescued at sea by a Danish freighter; they eventually settled in Denmark, where he grew up,” according to Devoe. “His early life as a refugee and his assimilation into European culture are reflected in Vo’s art, while his reimagining of the Statue of Liberty takes on increased urgency in our current moment in time, where immigration and refugee crises have become issues of both national and worldwide debate.”