Trial Balloon

Ask Dr. Heartlander

Posted at 6:00 AM on February 23, 2010 by Dale Connelly (41 Comments)
Filed under: Ask Dr. Heartlander

Ann_Landers small.jpg

Dear Dr. Heartlander,

I am a sculptor who hopes to be thought of as a great artist long after I am dead. In order to do that, I will have to employ all my talents in terms of beauty and grace, but the work must also speak of my time and the culture I live in.

My problem is in choosing a subject. I find it hard to pick someone to sculpt who has the time to sit for me and who people will agree is worthy of the effort.

It would be so easy to make a mistake. If I pour all my talent into creating a figure that represents some liar, cheater, a Ponzi scheme perpetrator or some other kind of pathetic loser, I'm afraid my work will be disparaged or worse, ignored! In the old days, you could always chisel out the figure of some God or mythological creature and you could be pretty sure people would accept it as magnificent. Who's going to risk the wrath of Zeus by suggesting his nose looks crooked or his head is shaped like a melon?

In antiquity, it was easy for sculptors to get a rave review. Today, all you get is arguments about whether your subject is qualified to stand on a pedestal. Politicians, athletes, movie stars ... I wouldn't dare take the chance on any of them. I once sent a letter to Tiger Woods, asking if he would sit for a portrait. Now I'm so glad he didn't answer. I could have wasted a year with that one.

Help me, Dr. Heartlander! Who can I sculpt?

PS - it would also help if they had enough money to pay me something now, while I'm living. I'm famished!

Starving Artist.

Dear Starving Artist,

Stop being such a baby. It doesn't matter who you sculpt. The nastier the better - critics of the future won't care if you put a pedestal under somebody who doesn't merit the honor. Is there anyone who truly deserves it?

All you have to worry about is the art itself. Take your time and make it something special.

And if you want to be famous in a thousand years, always remember to look at your subjects as if they were missing their heads and arms. Because that's the way they'll end up. Torso, torso, torso!

But that's only one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Heartlander?

Comments (41)

G'Morning, Heartlanders!

Ah, this one is easy! I was thinking about this just yesterday.

Of course, somebody sometime has to sculpt the 38th governor of our state, Jesse Ventura. To do him justice, the statue would need to include a feather boa and Fu Manchu mustache. He should look irate with his mouth open.

But that's not at the top of my list. In recent years two literary artists of towering genius have worked in Saint Paul. Each obviously deserves the recognition that only a good sculpted likeness brings.

The Garrison Keillor statue would have him standing with a microphone in his left hand. He would not be making eye contact with observers but would be looking down, concentrating on his News from Lake Wobegone for the week, eyes mostly closed.

The August Wilson statue would show the artist sitting at a bar, pen and papers before him, observing other bar patrons as he writes. In fact, it would be cool if we could mount this statue in one of the bars or coffee shops August used as he created some of his great works.

Good topic, Dale.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | February 23, 2010 6:14 AM

Dear SA - i tend to like sculptures of animals or objects (loved the big, glass carp at the
Walker, all the Calder stuff, and we have Picasso's "The Pregnant Goat" - well, not the original). trouble is, no carp or goat is going to pay you anything, and as Tim (or Clyde?) said yesterday we don't have any money to fund you either. you might try sculpting something (like a goat) out of a big pile of pellets/pee/hay this spring. you may have the medium free of charge if you collect it out of the barn (sooner the better)!
and SA, if you become a sustaining member today we will revere you past the end of your days.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | February 23, 2010 6:20 AM

Dear Starving Artist,

You are going about this entirely the wrong way. You cannot have as your end goal to be famous long after you are gone. It will will be inconsequential to you if your work lives on since you'll be dead. Also, you you stand a much better chance of producing good work if you create something you truly love. Finally, go get yourself a job. The chances of making money from your art are slim to none, and slim is walkin' out the door.

Dr. Heartlander

Posted by elinor | February 23, 2010 6:20 AM

Good Morning All

Dear Starving Artist,

I know about starving artists because there is one in my family. She sometimes does abstract art. I think you should try abstract art and then you would have no problem with selecting a person to pose for you.

You are unlimited when you do abstract art and there are many famous abstract artists. Try to come up with a concept. Since you have trouble deciding what to do, you could make something that is devoid of content as yout concept. There is some conceptual art that is something like this. It might make you famous.

Posted by Jim | February 23, 2010 6:23 AM

First, off topic re the virus my other computer picked up: I am prettty sure I got it off the Star Tribune Website. They had an article about how their ads had been infected etc, which matches my experience.
On Topic--we could do our RH Hall of Statues as I suggested yesterday. But I suggest in plaster, so the statue will be as brittle as their subject matter. Or we can go to the animal kingdom. Here in Mankato we have a very nice stylized Buffalo statue out of native stone in Reconciliation Park, the site of the hanging of the Sioux (actually across the street, where the library is now) because who can chose human subject matter for that event.
In the middle ages they believed various animals repsented various human foibles and virtues, thus the ostrich buries its head, etc. I think goats represented sexual excess, shall we say.
Or we could combine the two. Jesse could be his upper body and head on the body of a bull. Donna--watching a Britcom last night and a character had a name for an imaginary lover--Nigel Montenegro.

Posted by CXly de Plastere | February 23, 2010 6:30 AM

do the sun, it is the universal symbol for life happiness and total fulfillment. that or tim pawlenty. you could do this before he did anything truely monumental and noteworthy. or you could do w. you could slso do this before he did anything monumental or noteworthy. it could sit outside his presidential library. he'd pay and certainly no one else will be doing it.
dale can you play here comes the sun for my birthday today.
steve i like the garrison idea and i agree august wilson is a worthy candidate.

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 6:42 AM

Clyde! Carlos has a bastard cousin named Nigel!

Has Mr. Rogers been sculpted? Captain Kangaroo? Goat herder in Blackhoof?

Posted by Donna | February 23, 2010 6:42 AM

Dear SA:
You are aiming too high. Remember what H. L. Mencken siad: "Nobody every went broke under-estimating the taste of the American public."
What's her face above may have a good idea; do fake antiquities. Intentionally age them and leave off the key body parts in a broken fashion. So Sarah Palin missing her brain pan---or that could be an extensive collection of statues. Tiger Woods missing his, well actually maybe my idea doesn't work.

Posted by cly de plastere | February 23, 2010 6:43 AM

Clyde, you're really funny when you're plastered!

Posted by Donna | February 23, 2010 6:52 AM

Happy birthday, tim.
barb may have it, statues out of biodegradable materials.
I want in our hall of fame, Garrison and Wilson for sure, and Mr. Rogers and The Captain are great. I will add a doctor from Doctors without Borders, William Carlos Williams, Dr. Owen Wangenstein, my mother-in-law.

Posted by cly de plastere | February 23, 2010 6:52 AM

Happy birthday, tim.
barb may have it, statues out of biodegradable materials.
I want in our hall of fame, Garrison and Wilson for sure, and Mr. Rogers and The Captain are great. I will add a doctor from Doctors without Borders, William Carlos Williams, Dr. Owen Wangenstein, my mother-in-law.

Posted by cly de plastere | February 23, 2010 6:53 AM

Love the topic...

I've been having an email discussion with one of my mentors and former theater scenic designers regarding how do you define "artist". Our starting point has been Norman Rockwell vs. Terry Redlin....

SA- you can't please all the people all the time so just do what you like. But be prepared to justify it! You will be graded on this...

Happy Birthday Tim!

Posted by Ben | February 23, 2010 7:12 AM

thanks all and thanks dale for the beatles followed by richie haves.
bob dylan should be sculpted and the top of the rh sculpture garden.
clyde i like the tiger and palin ideas lets keep going.

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 7:33 AM

Happy birthday, Tim!
how about a statue of Carlos? out of the compost from the barn? use the guy in the Wintergreen ad, Donna? it might shatter the boundaries....
i like Clyde plastered, too.
and goats associated with sexual excess? Dream would disagree. T would say "pees sent moor gerls." my brother calls him a "walking gonad" (can we say that on TB?? :-)

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | February 23, 2010 7:35 AM

Starving-I think you need to broaden your expectations and sculpt action scenes, not just single figures. Think of how thrilling it would be to see a representation of a Superbowl, the Hurricane Katrina hitting NO, the NY Stock Exchange hitting 10,000, etc. The possibilities are limitless and you're not stuck with one figure. You could get commissions from everybody in the scene, just like those old Dutch master group paintings with all those guys who paid to have their likeness painted on the canvas.

Posted by Renee | February 23, 2010 7:38 AM

Dear SA -

As Ben points out, a juicy,,.good explanation for your art work is as important (and perhaps more so) than the subject itself. Sculpt your dog, your high school sweetheart, or perhaps an amalgam of the two - but then justify the work with a little existential angst or a line or two of poetry or literature.

Happy Birthday Tim!

(Clyde's plastered...tee hee...)

Posted by Anna | February 23, 2010 7:44 AM

This is off topic. I wonder if Dale would like some one to help him during fund drives? Apparently MPR has decided not to have som one from the station come on with him or maybe you like to do it by yourself, Dale.

I think there might be someone who comments on this blog who would be willing to come in and help. However, it wouldn't be me because I don't have much skill at this sort of thing. I tried tallking on the radio once and it wasn't good.

Posted by Jim | February 23, 2010 7:48 AM

Rockwell ves Redlin . . . ah, aren't they at about the same niche in the art world, whatever niche that is?
I would sculpt a few political figures, no names here, with marionette wires rising up from them to some unseen master.
Jim, who was the MN who died recently at large age who worked in plant development and such and saved more lives than just about anybody else on earth? I want him on our hall, but cannot come up with the name or a way to search for it.

Posted by Cly de Plasterie | February 23, 2010 7:50 AM

A real comment about MN statues:
I do not know if he is a starving artist, but Wilmar carver--really a sculptor in wood--Fred Cogelow does amazing stuff. Figures in wood that you wan to sit down and talk to or go pick eggs with. He does some amazing high-relief work. He can get amazing depth in four inches of butternut. There is no one good site I know of for him, but if you search you will see a pix or two. And if he blogged here, he would be way past TGitH. Way past. Funny way out there writer.
Right now I feel like Old Blevin.

Posted by Cly de Serious | February 23, 2010 7:57 AM

Ah, Clyde! You're thinking of Norman Borlaug. Good idea!

Posted by Dale Connelly | February 23, 2010 7:57 AM

as i read in the strib this morning that we are denaming hubert h humphrey airport and charles a lindberg airport in honor of naming them terminal 1 and terminal 2. i think we can put them in our sculpture garden. ( i mean humphrey and lindberg not the airports) i hope the guys in charge of naming the terminals don't get confused when they are at ohare or lax. they have terminal 1 and terminal 2 also. we were the only ones with humphrey and lindberg. maybe we should rename the parking lots and levels in the parking ramps. east and west and level a ba and c is too confusing. it should all be 1 2 and 3. at our sculpture garden we can have area 1 and area 2 just for clarifacation.

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 8:05 AM

Cylde, you are probably thinking of Norman Borlaug. He was one of the leaders in what has been called the green revolution that brought improved breeds of grains to poor countries to improve their crop production. However some have seen a negative side to the green revolution because it seemed to promote a type of agriculture that wasn't appropriate to the places where it was introduced. Too much use of pesticides and large scale production and decreasing crop diversity and resulting in the loss of traditional crops and crop varieties.

Posted by Jim | February 23, 2010 8:06 AM

Happy Birthday Tim! Wishing you a sunny year!

I am must be plastered and still recovering from yesterday when I followed jimmck's suggestion to look at the sculpted figures from the Pittsburgh airport of GW and Franco Harris. I learned from a Pittsburgh native that standing near the father of our country is also a sculpture of a TRex skeleton.

The above leads me to suggest to SA not one figure but perhaps a gathering. What about Jesse Ventura together with Norman Borlaug and Laura Ingalls Wilder drinking coffee in a church basement?

Posted by Beth-Ann | February 23, 2010 8:09 AM

Really, they are dropping Humphrey and Linbergh as names? So are they going to sell the naming rights?
There are two other Lindberh terminals at least--St. Louis and San Diego. I once flew out of Mpls from gate Gold 21 or whatever. 24 hours later we landed and they announced we were at gate 132. We all got off wondering where we were, if even the right airport. They changed the numbering system in the one day I was gone.
A sculpture for the modern era, a host of famous politicians of all persuasions scrambling over each other to reach the moneyy being held out by a disemboiued hand.

Posted by Cly de Plasterie | February 23, 2010 8:16 AM

clyde. checked out fred cogelow. great carving and a great quote by the website hosts
-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

i like the superbowl / katrina idea. instead of buying a brick with your name on it. you could send the image you'd like to present and 100 dollars please and you could do 1000's and thousands all over the state country world, in space... we could offer the worlds largest sculpture garden and sell prominance to the highest bidder. exxon ceo at the gate. gotta love these new ideas

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 8:18 AM

speaking of sculpture gardens, my all time favorite was one done outside the Walker, one summer probably in late 80s or early 90s, installed into the hill near Hennepin - all plants - flowers, grasses - loved that. of course, i don't remember the artist.
my other favorite sculpture garden is in New Orleans, the New Orleans Museum of Art outside installation that one can walk under the beautiful trees, hear the Mockingbirds and discuss the sculpture. a Rodin, other big names, mostly donated. nice assortment of new and old

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | February 23, 2010 8:19 AM

maybe the supreme court justices could get sponsers to do them for our garden? i bet they would be ok with that.

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 8:24 AM

Beth-Ann--I now know where those sculptures are at Pitt. I looked at the dinosaur, rusing off to rental car or a gate.
IIt takes serious threat to get me to leave any sculture garden. My favorite is on the mall in D.C.A MN church basement sculpture garden near the spoon would be very nice. Add HHH, Bob Dylan to the mix.
(Waiting for the techie's next step on my other computer.)

Posted by Cly de decayier | February 23, 2010 8:30 AM

and to follow clydes earlier lead. we could install the supreme court without.... conscience, morals, a link to humanity

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 8:31 AM

Hey there Dale! Say, talking about lawn mower repairs put me in mind of two other songs it would be great to hear: Power tools are a girl's best friend, and The song about going to the hardware store (love that!). ("I save hundreds of dollars there EVREY week"!) Think you might be able to sqeeze one in yet?

Posted by audrey in Mpls. | February 23, 2010 8:37 AM

Yes, Audrey.
I'll try to get Charlie Maguire's "Home Improvement Blues" into the mix before the top of the hour. Thanks for the request.

Posted by Dale Connelly | February 23, 2010 8:42 AM

Let's add Charlie Maguire to the church basement group--one of the most congenial human beings I ever met (hired him to do a concert in the park at a community celebration). He can represent MN nice and the parks. My kids fell in love with him when he came to their school. And Robert Bly belongs in there, too.

Posted by cly de powderie | February 23, 2010 8:55 AM

THANKS DALE!! That song never fails to get me laughing. So many "truisms" included! ("Whoopie!! Oughta have the kitchen done by then!")

Posted by audrey in Mpls. | February 23, 2010 9:05 AM

Ok, is this a good time to rant about the 'art aesthetic'...whatever that may be?

First off, Elinor is right. She echoes what a former photo specialist at IFP told me only a few years ago. "People love great art...they just don't want to pay for it."

Second, being designated posthumously as legendary is out of your hands. So let it go. Focus on your art, not your legacy.

Third, Elinor is right again. Choose a subject that you feel something for. Emotion comes through in art. Trying to placate the public or second-guess the zeitgeist is like trying to walk around the edge of the Grand Canyon while wearing a blindfold. Find your own path and walk it.

Finally, I have to wonder aloud about where 'fine art' is and where it is going. I have been known to do photo work for the past twenty or so years. I've even sold some of my work. Now, maybe I'm just way too practical...that's entirely possible. But it seems (-seems-) like art today is not allowed to communicate. If a viewer can look at a piece of art and interpret something about what the artist is trying to communicate, it can't be art. In other words, if we don't know what the heck something is or there is no message that can be gleaned from it, then it's art...otherwise, it's something else. Also, when did humor and art become mutually exclusive? It seems (again, -seems-) that artwork that may give a wink and a nod as part of what the artist is trying to say somehow disqualifies it as art. Is this all just me?

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | February 23, 2010 9:06 AM

Here is a real idea: a MN fictional characters garden: Gatsby, Bubby Spamden, Pr Ingkvist and Father what's his name together, Babbitt, Mike Pengra, Laura and family, Betsy and Tacey, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, Miles Pruitt and Agathe McGee, Loomis Beachley, what's her name from Main Street, etc.

Posted by Cly de dustier | February 23, 2010 9:15 AM

bill holm, anna morrow lindberg, les blacklock, father hennipen, louis marquette, pillsbury mayos, charles schulz, sinclair lewis, william o douglas, eugene mccarthy, fritz mondale, paul welstone,herb brooks, roger maris, judy garland, the coen brothers. bronco nagurski, patty berg jon hassler, warren burger,jane russel, mr wizard, verne gagne and wanda gag.
a little something for everyone.

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 9:21 AM

how could you leave rocky and bullwinkle off that list?

Posted by tim | February 23, 2010 9:24 AM

TgitH--yes indeed.
What is art and what is craft?
What is great in a century or two and who decided?
If you make art look simple and easy ("Art is the artful disguising of art."), nobody will buy it. "Well, I could take that piocture of Lester River, I could paint that picture of Lake Superior." Many of the current big name actors are saying to us--"hey, look at me how good an actor I am."
Art and humor: How many Academy awards are awarded for comedy anymore? They seem to do better with art as humor in England. How many in US know who Kingsley Amos is? Dali got by by with humor by disguising it as surrealism.

Posted by cly de . . . . . | February 23, 2010 9:24 AM

tim-ah yes. Now there was art, the whole rocky show. I was bro=wsing my class on facebook at the U of Chi and found one of my classmates now has the last name of Bullwinkel.
Good list.

Posted by clyde de | February 23, 2010 9:27 AM

Dear STARVING artist,
You might want to seek a commission for a companion piece for the Spoon and Cherry, Suggest experimenting with various live models fork and meatball, chop sticks and tofu, hand and ice cream cone, etc. Even if you aren't accepted as an artist you will no longer be starving!

Posted by Beth-Ann | February 23, 2010 1:44 PM

Beth-Ann--funny but has existential implications

Posted by c l y | February 23, 2010 2:13 PM

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