A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I was happy to see yesterday, on the lawn of Yankee Candle, two familar-looking life-sized statues of cows. They're part of the CowParade herd, which advertises itself as "the world’s largest public art event." I first saw the cows in Brussels, dozens of them throughout the city, on sidewalks, in parks and plazas, stranded at intersections. But installations have been done in many cities.

The cows are made of fiberglass, and are of three basic designs: standing, reclining, and grazing. (A fourth design is in the works.) Artists submit designs, and, if selected, are paid a $1000 honorarium to paint or otherwise decorate one of the cows. After a period of display in the selected city, the cows are auctioned off for charity, each cow usually netting tens of thousands of dollars.

Most of the artists selected are professionals, but they need not be. Some of the cows have been painted by children. Some of the designs are simple, some witty, some elaborate--mosaic tile, mirrors, papier-maché costumes. One that I saw in Brussels was completely covered with real postage stamps.

Each cow has a plaque attached to the base with the name of the cow and the name of the artist printed on it. These two cows are "Parafina Bovina" by Jane Lowerre and "Scenter of the Moo-niverse" by Mary Beth Whalen. They'll be joined from September 24 to October 2 on the company lawn by a travelling herd of eight other cows. These two are special, though, as they have a Yankee Candle theme.

CowParade, as the organizers make clear, "is not meant to be high art. It is first and foremost a public art exhibit that is accessible to everyone." And, of course, it's ultimately for a good cause. For those that can't conveniently visit South Deerfield, Massachusetts, other current exhibits are in Denver, Athens, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Lisbon, Wisconsin, Telemark, Boston, and Belo Horizonte.

Swiss-born sculptor Pascal Knapp designed the three basic cow sculptures in 1996 at the request of his father for a 1998 exhibit in Zurich. The rest is history.

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