Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
The Paint Torch. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2015 v9n2p1111
Just for fun, if nothing else looks interesting on a Saturday, I love to walk around Philadelphia, through, on, around and just enjoying public art. And a strong presence comes from the studios Claes Oldenburg, who worked for decades collaboratively with Coosje van Bruggen, his Dutch-born wife from 1976 until her death in 2009. I read that the Paint Torch, installed in 2011, was the first huge piece he did by himself but that this piece was commissioned while his partner was still alive, and she had inspected the site with him. Her name is not on the piece.
We have 3 of the huge Oldenburg-van Bruggen sculptures in Philadelphia. They are hard to miss. And in 1986, when I first saw an enormous garden hose in Freiburg im Breisgau, I realized I had followed them around, and became interested in who they were.
Everything around the Paint Torch is gorgeous: the buildings, other art pieces, the footpaths, so when I first walked through the alley in May 2015, I did not pay attention to the gigantic paintbrush, and photographed only what looked like a Hershey Kiss. We are in Pennsylvania. Until I read about the piece, I could not see any connection between the orange kiss and the paintbrush. I discovered it is meant to be a blob of paint falling from the brush. Oh. From where I stood, and that was all around and across the road, later I could not see how a blob of that size and color could have fallen off the tip of the paintbrush. I am very literal.
However, looking at where the piece is and how it fits
into the street, I do like it. It is next to the Pennsylvania Academy of
the Arts, which is a public art work all by itself, with different
colored bricks and stones and intricate carving. At the opposite end of
the alley from the Paint Torch is a crashed plane, jammed with growing
plants. It has been turned into a green house. I do not like the clutter
around the Paint Torch. All the other big sculptures by this couple are
in open spaces. During the day, a picture from the north looking
towards Philadelphia City Hall included a blackboard menu from a
The sculpture showing Benjamin Franklin working his
printing press, and thereby creating the American Revolution (not by
himself) is across the road from City Hall on Broad Street. If you look
down the street, you can see the Paint Torch peeping out through trees
on a sunny autumn day.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. On Nov 11,
on the 40th anniversary of a right wing coup in Australia, when the
elected government was dismissed by the representative in Australia of
the Queen of England; on the 97th anniversary of the armistice of
Germany with UK and allies; on the day when we wear poppies and remember
those who fell and are falling from hostilities, I pause to remember
what really matters. Things of the spirit that lift us up, and remind us
that not fighting, having peace, is a way better way to live.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Steel, fiberglass reinforced plastic, gelcoat, polyurethane, LED lighting
Height from ground: 50'11"; Total length of work: 53' 9/16"; Handle to
Glob distance: 14' 4 7/8"; Glob height: 5' 11 3/4"; Glob diameter: 6'
Commissioned March 2010 by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Installed August 20, 2011
Inaugurated October 1, 2011