Look who’s coming to Grant Park. No it’s not leftover aliens from last weekend’s Lollapalooza, it’s a new public art installation “Borders” that features life-sized sculptures–some of which could be mistaken for the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. There are 26 of these ungainly forms, by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, that are cast in aluminum and cast iron.
The “Borders” installation will take place tomorrow, Thursday, August 8 at the northwest corner of Grant Park in the Solti Garden, near Jackson Boulevard and South Michigan Avenue. The 26 figures will be arranged in 13 pairs–each pair containing one sculpture in aluminum, and the other iron. They will be on view and available for mingling and photo ops until the spring of 2014.
Unlike many of Chicago’s public art installations that are mostly for fun, including the nearby “Parade of Heads” along Chicago’s cultural mile and the outrageous Marilyn Monroe statue of 2011, the “Borders” sculptures are more introspective. They seem to intrude rather than welcome. Yet there is a draw. Many of the works are placed so that they seem to be conversing with each other–drawing people in.
Although Chicago is not the first to have these androgynous figures come for a visit, it will be interesting to see how people will react. In Seattle, Dallas and New York City, many passers-by would interact with them–sitting next to them or even hugging them–reminiscent of the actions between people and Chicago’s popular Cows on Parade exhibition over a decade ago.
The original “Borders” installation in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, near the United Nations headquarters in New York, was chosen specifically for that active, vibrant public space that held frequent social gatherings from political rallies to farmers’ markets. Thórarinsdóttir chose its Chicago site, similarly, as a populated space bracketing frequent cultural happenings from the nearby Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park.
Modeled after Thórarinsdóttir’s oldest son, the static, life-sized figures allow park visitors to engage with them by crossing the invisible “borders” they create. Thórarinsdóttir explains, that by “Using human figures it is possible for people to relate to this work very directly, but at the same time the characteristics of the figure are reserved and anonymous— they don’t force themselves on the viewer. The show reflects on the opposites of human existence–on division but also on unity.”
About the Artist
Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir (b.1955) studied at the University of Portsmouth Fine Art Department in England and the Accademia di Belle Arte in Bologna, Italy. She has been working professionally for more than 30 years and has exhibited widely in Europe, Japan, the United States, and Australia. Her works are in private, public, and corporate collections around the world. She has completed commissions at Leifur Eiríksson International Airport, Iceland, and the two-part memorial Voyage in Hull, England, and Vik, Iceland among others. Thórarinsdóttir recently finished a nine-meter high sculpture for the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Her exhibition “Horizons,” which was first exhibited in early 2007 at the Katonah Museum, New York, has since traveled to six venues. Among them are the Dixon Museum and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee; the Georgia Museum of Art; and the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, Illinois. Thórarinsdóttir lives and works in Reykjavik, Iceland.
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