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Crazy, Colorful, and Controversial Adventures in Public Art

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We begin our journey in St. Louis, Mo., where just last year a Brooklyn-based artist named Leeza Meskin wrapped a historic brick house in 800 yards of gold-and-white spandex. Why? To convey the idea that "the house, wrapped in gold chains, will flaunt itself to locals, while simultaneously finding itself bound and gagged by its own design." Meskin believed the fabric itself recalled “drag queens and super heroes" and expressed "hip hop and pop culture as a sign of wealth and fabulousness." Her story reminds us why, exactly, we will forever be fascinated with the magical mystery tour that is public art.


? This month, Vincent Van Gogh's 1885 masterpiece A Wheatfield, With Cypresses was recreated with more than 8,000 plants outside the National Gallery in London. The botanical beaut is part of the museum's carbon-reduction plan and will continue to bloom as summer progresses, making it even prettier to look at.


? Back on this side of the pond—and smack in the waters that flow 'round NYC—is "Burble Bup," a temple to the mindboggling that has earned a temporary seasonal spot on Governors Island in an annual contest. The design team behind Burble Bup "envisioned strangers lounging and mingling within Burble Bup’s earthen walls, laying down and feeling comfortable underneath constantly shifting colored light."


? Of course, public art is not always without controversy. In Coeur d'Alene, Ida., some residents are up in arms about a sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha that was just erected in the center of town. The Kootenai County Constitution Party, for one, is calling the four-armed mass with an elephant head an "abomination" put in place by a "godless group of individuals."


? In New Orleans, an artist named Candy Chang turned an abandoned building into a life-size bucket list as a means of transforming "neglected spaces into constructive ones where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us." With a whole lot of primer, chalkboard paint, chalk, and permission from various city councils and commissions, Chang gave passersby a blank slate upon which to write things like "see my daughter graduate," "sing for millions," "own a monkey," and "make love to Bill Gates." The project, naturally, was entitled "Before I Die."


? Lastly, props our due to our cousins over at Curbed SF who conducted a "Least Favorite Public Art in San Francisco" contest this April. Way to lay it out there, guys! Above: (1) "Legs" ("filthy rope thing"), (2) "Cupid's Span," (3) the United Nations Plaza Fountain, (4) "Vaillancourt Fountain" (referred to as a "concrete carbuncle"), and (5) "Transcendence," also referred to as "The Banker's Heart." Ultimately, readers chose "Legs" as ugliest.

· St. Louis House Enters Flashdance Architectural Period [Curbed National]
· Living Wall in London Mimics Van Gogh's Painting [Freshome]
· These Pavilions Almost Made it to Governors Island [Curbed NY]
· The 2011 City of Dreams Pavilion [Figment]
· Northwest News: Public statue of Hindu god drawing protests in Idaho; UW tuition going up 20 percent [Oregon Live]
· Woman Turns Abandoned Building Into a Life-Size Bucket Work [Curbed National]
· Vote Now: Least Favorite Public Art in San Francisco [Curbed SF]
· "Legs" is Voted San Francisco's Least Favorite [Curbed SF]