A large sittable sculpture is located in the courtyard between buildings at Dan’s office. Now, I’m not an art critic, at least not a constructive or educated one, so I’ll stick to talking about the landscaping which surrounds the huge brown log-like creation.
The courtyard is big and round, paved with stark gray cement the exact color of the cloudy Seattle winter sky. In the center sat a huge round patch of grass with a circular brown 2-foot-tall sculpture where people could gather, talk and play Parcheesi.
Recently Dan arrived at work to find the lush green grass replaced with gray gravel the exact color of the bleak courtyard and gathering clouds. Looking down from his office window, the scene was less than cheerful. In fact, it was downright depressing.
So he sent this email to his fellow disgruntled coworkers, sparking a 5-month-long email discussion:
So how do you like the gravel?
If you don’t know what gravel I’m talking about, then you can ignore the rest of this message.
If you do, what do you think of it? The person you should tell is Maura Facilities.
Feel free to send this information on to anyone else you know who works in the surrounding buildings.
Apparently the woman was inundated with emails and sent Dan a cease and desist email about the valuable nature of her time, yadda yadda, his concerns would be considered, blah blah, the gravel was to help preserve the sculpture which was being damaged by grass clippings and water from sprinklers and please leave her alone and have a fabulous peachy keen MegaCorp day.
Our friend Stebe replied:
I like the gravel. I think it is the perfect compliment to the sculpture in that it is completely in harmony with the charred-wood-post-apocalyptic, sterile character of the piece.
There was an email regarding the restoration and vegetation removal that indicated that signage would be used to encourage use of the site as a meeting place. I think that the gravel should be liberally augmented with shards of broken glass to emphasize the ironic hilarity of that notion.
Maura encouraged Stebe to “stay tuned” as all possible solutions were evaluated with regards to said sculpture and she would get the ball rolling, moving forward.
Dan emailed Maura:
I do like the flamingos, but I hope it’s not all you have up your sleeves.
Co-worker Bob chimed in:
I like flamingos. I like the gravel too. I think we should build more gravel based landscapes. Here is one suggestion:
For past few weeks, I have noticed that the waterfall by the cafeteria is dry. I was wondering if we could replace the waterfall with a “gravel fall”. Just install a “gravel pump” and let the gravel flow down the rocks while people have their lunch. We can add more variety by making some flamingos go down the gravel fall.
Maura sent Bob an email thanking him for his input, expressing her plans to investigate further landscaping options. However she could offer no timeline for further plans to proactively continue with the project. She provided a link for the employees to learn more about the meaning and origin of the sculpture and told them a sign would be placed nearby, encouraging them to continue using the gravel pit as a cozy meeting place.
I think cement (with an open aggregate finish) would be an acceptable substitute for gravel. I find that it exhibits nearly identical properties as gravel in terms of thermal reflectivity, aesthetics, discomfort to those standing or sitting upon it. Of course, its downsides include reduced permeability to surface water accumulation, but perhaps the runoff can be shunted to the dry fountain.
Will the signage highlight the broken glass, or was that suggestion rejected on artistic grounds?
Maura thanked Stebe for his patience and ensured him that every option was being explored. They would leave no piece of gravel unturned.
Maura, we’re determined to keep baiting you with earnest suggestions until you crack and spout off at us.
She expressed amusement.
Stebe emailed Maura:
Dan Daring has suggested that we make it a review commitment to find the last straw that will push you over the edge. He’s a rabble-rouser. Or is that a gravel-ouster?
Hey, maybe straw is the ticket? A sort of pastoral barnyard theme?
Dan couldn’t resist:
Just curious… since one of the stated reasons for the grass removal is the watering, does the nine months of rain we get here not have a similar effect? I vote for waterproofing the sculpture (perhaps coating the thing in shellac?) and then putting a fountain in the center. This way we (I mean the artist, of course the artist would be consulted on this) could add the additional theme of a waterproof slip-n-slide to the other three notions evoked by the piece.
“Skip to My Lou (1997), a circle of dancing cedar forms for [MegaCorp], combines three notions: the awkward handwriting of an elder who can barely read and write, a Native American image of the ocean’s surface motion, and people dancing energetically in a circle, then separated. Skip to My Lou links illiterate immigrants, the site’s original tribal inhabitants, and the workers who built the piece in an organic, passionate, undulating cedar composition.”
Stebe offered some advice to go with Dan’s suggestion:
Shellac wears off over time, as does linseed oil and other organic wood preservatives. Periodic re-application of preservative would be expensive. I suggest that the entire piece instead be encased in UV-resistant transparent epoxy or Lucite.
This would provide a weatherproof, long lasting protective shroud that would protect the piece from rain, sun, flamingo droppings, withering sarcasm, and sprinkler water. It would allow the piece’s passionate undulations to continue unabated indefinitely.
The protection from sprinkler offal would allow the organic, passionate, undulating grass to be restored.
Around this time Laylee noticed that the plastic flamingos had been smashed to bits and told me it would be okay because she was sure the flamingos would be resurrected and God would STICK their bodies all back together again with their spirits. Yes, I’m sure they will rise like… flamingos from the post-apocalyptic gravel-scape.
Stebe noticed the poor birds as well but was less hopeful about their future:
Maura, with heavy heart I must report to you a matter of great consternation relating to the “Skip to My Lou” installation which you so steadfastly and heroically champion. It appears that the flamingo accents have been the victims of nefarious vandalism. I don’t wish to shock you with the sickening details, but I feel compelled to document the full range of horrors that are plainly visible to any passerby.
Many of the poor plastic beasties have been dismembered, their ravaged parts strewn about the gravel in a most un-artistic fashion. Some have been mercilessly decapitated, their flightless pinwheel wings fluttering and flailing fruitlessly. In some cases, pitiful bodiless birdy legs remain planted pointed upward as if to suggest to the viewer to cast his gaze heavenward and appeal pleadingly to some silent Higher Being with the question so oft inspired by the installation: “Why? Oh, Why?”
What can be done? Where can I turn for solace? How can the dastardly actors in this tragic episode be brought to justice? Please, Maura, please, I beg you to answer.
Oh, alas! If there was only a soft bit of healing green grass nearby upon which I could fling myself and weep…
Throughout the months various seasonal lawn ornaments, vegetables and decorative items congregated around the sculpture, proving that gravel is indeed a good gathering place, at least for inanimate objects.
Well, Stebe will soon have his patch of grass to weep upon. Maura has informed Dan and Stebe that because of their passion for the artwork, the gravel will be retrofitted and grass will be re-installed in its place, surrounding a small circle of gravel that the sculpture will rest on.
May this be the first of many times Dan’s passion for art brings The Man to his knees.