Gilded monuments and bronze statues evoke the public art of a bygone era, though we’ve recently been reminded of the potent symbolic value they still hold. Artist Gillian Wearing (b. 1963, Birmingham, England) has been fascinated by these sculptures since childhood. For her, there’s something uncanny about a human form that appears immovable and changeless in a public setting. Wearing has alwasy made art about people, usually presented in unexpected ways, in photography, video, and more recently, sculpture.
Photographer Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971) is one of several artists who Wearing counts among her key influences, or “spiritual family.” The celebrated New York photographer, who took many of her best-known images in Central Park, nevertheless remains a surprising choice for a bronze monument.
Wearing’s statue draws attention to the fact that few women are represented in this way, and even fewer visual artists. Who gets to be memorialized has become a lively public debate. Diane Arbus, installed temporarily at the entrance to Central Park, is one artist’s tribute to another. The presentation of the sculpture is unconventional: there’s no pedestal, the figure simply stands on the pavement. Like a photograph come to life, Wearing captures Arbus as she might have appeared, holding her distinctive Mamiyaflex camera, gaze fixed on her next subject.
Diane Arbus by Gillian Wearing Will Be on Display in Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Central Park (60th Street at 5th Avenue) Through August 14th, 2022.