Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Ghost on the Sculpture Committee

"Imagine That" by artist Tom Williams. Lincoln Park, Los Altos, California.

I got a call this week from someone looking for Faye Chapman. Faye is my late mother, and since I kept the family land line when I moved into the family home last year, this kind of call isn't uncommon.

Usually it is someone looking for a donation. But this time the call contained a surprise.

The caller was a young reporter from the Los Altos Town Crier who wanted to speak with my mother because she was on the city's Public Sculpture Committee. The reporter was so abashed when I told her my mother was dead, I ended up comforting her.

The surprise was that I had not known about this compartment in my mother's life. She had never mentioned it. So, I went on the city's web site and there she was: still listed as a member of the Public Sculpture Committee.

I can only speculate: but I think my mother (and father, as they were always a team) got involved in this when our city began soliciting designs for a Veterans' Memorial in 1997. Mom and Dad were in their seventies then: still healthy and active.  Like everyone in our family, they had strong likes and dislikes.

The City of Los Altos has had a public art program since 1985. I enjoyed seeing it blossom over the years as I came home on visits. And though all of the art--mostly sculpture, as it sits outside--is striking, a great deal of it is non-representational.

"Space Dance for Peace" by Mircea Paul Goreniuc, Lincoln Park, Los Altos, California.

"Pax Nova" by Bill Laculla, McKenzie Park, Los Altos, California.

"Magic Fish" by Hardy Jones, Los Altos Main Library.

I suspect my folks worried that the Veterans' Memorial might end up looking like a big Peace Cube or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"Dancers" by Michele M. Alcantra, Grant Avenue, Los Altos, California.

Perhaps--and I don't know this for sure--thanks to their input, and the input of many others in town, the Veterans Memorial was a representational figure. A figure of a soldier. And, like an American soldier, this one was just a little bit larger than life.

Veterans' Memorial, Shoup Park, Los Altos, California.

Designed by California artist R.J. Truman, it is called "Cradle of Liberty." My father and mother really liked it and took me to see it many times. The infant held up by the wounded G.I.  is supposed to represent Liberty, according to the sculpture's description. But to my father, the infant was an infant--and children, as he said many times, always brightened the day of a war weary soldier. And vice versa.

"We loved seeing kids," Dad said. "They always made us think of home."

In fact, when he returned from Japan following the last bloody battle of World War II, my mother asked him how it was, and he reportedly said: "Those Japanese kids were really cute."

This, I believe, are the origins of my mother's civic involvement near the end of her life. A nice coda, for a daughter to stumble across. I wish she had talked about it.

I notice the committee meets monthly and I do wonder that someone hasn't noticed Faye's absence since her death in 2009.

I think I better call them. According to the city's web site, Mom's term runs through 2013!

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linda said...

btw, volusia county redid their arts in public places after an investigative story in the orlando sentinel uncovered severe flaws in the program. i wrote the story! :-)

Robin Chapman said...

Having those who have slipped this mortal coil continue to serve on an "art in public places" board does not seem terribly sensible. Fortunately, my mother isn't collecting a check or anything.

Thaddeus said...

Hi Robin! You never fail to come up with something interesting, served with a twist. Nice to learn of your mother's connection with public art, and thereby learn something new about Los Altos, or anything else you are writing about. I was fascinated to learn of Reginald Marsh's connection to Wideawake and Brazil. This is why I check your blog regularly and always enjoy it.

Robin Chapman said...

Anyone who wants to know more about the U.S. War Artists program in World War II should definitely see the stunning documentary "They Drew Fire" produced by the late Brian Lanker. We are truly lucky to have the benefit of the view these artists gave us.

Anonymous said...

Art in Lost Altos? Who woulda thunk?

linda said...

los altos is a nice community which use to have a wicked bike shop!

Robin Chapman said...

Still does--at Loyola Corners.

linda said...

i use to ride in los altos a lot. bought a custom bike at the shop in palo alto.bought my bike shoes in los altos.just can't remember the name of the store. was in the foothills,i think!

shoshana francis said...

I'm thinking there must be a mix-up, and the Faye Chapman who is on the Sculpture Committee, now the Public Arts Committee, is a different Faye Chapman. According to their minutes, Faye Chapman is the chair of the committee, and has been attending meetings. So unless your mother is attending these meetings from beyond the grave, I think it's just a mix-up. I came across your site because I'm also trying to contact the Faye Chapman on the committee.

Robin Chapman said...

You are correct! I met the Other Faye Chapman one evening at a City Council meeting and she is a lovely person. This was written before I realized there had been two Faye Chapmans in the little town. I discovered my mother and the Other Faye knew about each other and correponded occasionally. So all is well. My mother was artistic, but it is the Other Faye who was, and still is, on the sculpture committee!