These days, it can feel like you’re drowning in the news or in your social media feed. Based on the “news” of the day, it’s easy to be disheartened. To be pessimistic. To be jaded. But, it doesn't have to be that way. We can fight to stay positive. To stay upbeat. To stay hopeful. No matter how hard or daunting it might be. And, it wouldn’t hurt if there was a large, highly visible reminder of the need for us to do so. Just like the seven meter-high statue of a thumbs up that’s situated on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square.
On our most recent trip to London, my family stayed in a rented apartment that looked out over Trafalgar Square. When we emerged from the Charring Cross station, with rolling luggage in hand, upon arriving in the city, the first thing we saw was a big thumbs up.
The bronze statue took the place of the previous statue that had been stationed on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Originally, it was supposed to showcase an equestrian statue of William IV in 1841. But, the status wasn't erected due to budgetary issues. In 1998, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce commissioned three contemporary sculptures to be temporarily displayed on the fourth plinth. Later, a public enquiry resulted in a recommendation that the commissions feature temporary artworks instead of a permanent piece.
On one of our last trips to London, a bright blue rooster (Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock) was nested there. For us, the latest one, the Really Good sculpture, seemed to make a much stronger – and bigger -statement. And, indeed it was.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was quoted in The Guardian, saying the latest statue represents something very important and symbolizes “Optimisim. Positivity. The best of us.” Something that was especially significant post-Brexit.
The Really Good sculpture was created by British artist, David Shrigly. Today, several items designed by the artist are on sale at the Tate Britain and Tate Modern – including a mug with a big thumbs up on it and the words “Doing Really Good.”
According to The Guardian, Shrigley came up with the idea of a giant thumbs up four years ago – eclipsing the Brexit vote by several years. But, the artist hopes it will become “a self-fulfilling prophecy, that things considered bad – the weather, the economy, politics – will benefit from the positivity contained in the work.”
And, I remain hopeful that it will do just that.
Each day, from our rented apartment, I looked out over the square. Past the red double-decker buses. Past the crowds of tourists taking photos near the famous lions. Past the harried people walking to work. And, my eyes locked on Really Good.
It instantly made me feel good. It made me think about its implied meaning. It made me want to be – and feel - positive. No matter if there were clouds in the sky. No matter if rain was falling during our holiday. No matter what I had just read online.
So, what can we do to get a similar statue erected in the U.S.? How can we have a bold, constant reminder that we’re “doing really good,” too? I think it will do us all a lot of good.
It will be good to know that there’s always hope. It will be good to remember that we’re in this together. It will be good to know that the outcome can be bright when we fight for what’s right together. It will be good to know something I always tell my sons - that the good guys always win.
So, as I plot what spots in Chicago and other major U.S. cities could benefit from a giant thumbs up – or other reminder to stay positive, consider this my plea for an artist to bring hope to us in a big way, too.