Public Art: In the Eye of the Beholder

Leatherlips © Larry Hamill

Art in Public Places, a program developed over 20 years ago by the City of Dublin and the Dublin Arts Council, has highlighted regional Native American history, as well as the agricultural history of the area showcasing these art installations.

The first, and perhaps most impressive, is Leatherlips.  Created by Boston artist Ralph Helmick in 1990, the 12-foot high limestone sculpture of Wyandot Chief Leatherlips sits on a rise in Scioto Park, overlooking the Scioto River.

I covered the dedication for the Miami, Oklahoma News-Record.  Both artist and then Wyandot Chief Leaford Bearskin of Oklahoma traveled to Columbus for the dedication.

“We tend to lose our bearings in a growing community. I wanted to create a place to reflect upon the land; to remember when the land belonged to everyone and no one,” said Helmick that day.

Chief Bearskin spoke of Helmick’s work – “He has captured something of our people, something of our spirit and Indian world that no one has. When you see the monument, you will see its power, its spirit, its dignity and its honor.”

Watch House © Larry Hamill

Eight years later, Columbus artist Todd Slaughter would create Watch House, a copper house situated on top of a circular Native American-inspired earthen mound.  Prairie grass and sunflowers cover the mound, mimicking crops once planted by Ohio’s first farmers, the Hopewell Indians. 

The house has a planetarium-like domed ceiling with cut-outs of household items. These shaped portals of light were designed to carry a double meaning; revealing the expanding universe while referencing changes in contemporary society.

Field of Corn © Larry Hamill

In 1994, Columbus artist Malcolm Cochran created Field of Corn. Cast in concrete, the human-sized ears of corn stand upright in front of a backdrop of Osage Orange trees in Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park.

Again, the artwork addresses the farming history of Dublin, an area now consumed by urban development. The trees hark back to days when farmers used them as natural fencing.  Sam Frantz, a pioneer in corn hybridization, once owned the site for Field of Corn.

Other public artworks include Out of Bounds (a large soccer ball), a tribute sculpture to Jack Nicklaus and a piece entitled, Going, Going…Gone! See the DAC’s website for images and locations.

Public opinion has been as varied as some of the pieces commissioned by the Dublin Arts Council, but perhaps none as interesting as the opinion of Columbus Dispatch columnist, Mike Harden.  In his commentary titled, Inspiration Rich for Public Art in Dublin, Harden pens some art proposals of his own.

Dancing Hares © Larry Hamill

As Harden points out, “When we discuss Dublin art treasures for the people, we need to discount the rabbits cavorting on psychedelic ‘shrooms. The boogying bunnies are not public art.”

The 15-foot bronze sculpture called Dancing Hares can be found in its Alice in Wonderland style pose in Ballantrae Park, at the entrance of its namesake subdivision.

As it is in Dublin, and it can be viewed by the public eye, you have to wonder where to draw the line at public vs. private art. Some might call that splitting hairs, but Harden isn’t afraid to take on the role of art critic or cynic. Read more @ The Columbus Dispatch.

Post written by Pamela J. Willits

2 responses to “Public Art: In the Eye of the Beholder

  1. What a fun review. Thanks for posting this work.

  2. Larry- these are wonderful photos of some great public art. You show the diversity of the art and its beauty.

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