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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Monumental Sculpture

Ziolkowski's Crazy Horse Memorial is only now starting to take shape
after some fifty-five years of blasting away at Black Hills granite.
I wouldn't want to say that sculptors are megalomaniacs, but they do have a tendency to "think big." Michelangelo's David is sometimes referred to as "the giant," though at seventeen feet, it's barely three times life size. Frederic Bartholdi, Gutzon Borglum and Korczak Ziolkowski would look down on it and sneer. Who? Why is it Michelangelo, Bernini, and Rodin ring up instant images while those with the strange sounding names cause most people to draw a blank. For the record Bartholdi did the Liberty Enlightening the World; Borglum, Mt. Rushmore; and Ziolkowski, the Crazy Horse Memorial (a work still in progress). Borglum I've already covered (09-06-11). The other two I'll be discussing individually in the future.

Monuments come; monuments go; though
usually not so suddenly.
For now, we want to look at monumental sculpture in general. During the past two centuries, most examples of this type work have been artist-driven. The heads on Mt. Rushmore didn't hire Borglum to carve their likenesses, and Crazy Horse would probably be more than a little perplexed in seeing what the Ziolkowski family has wrought. However, in the past, probably starting with Egyptian sphinxes (as early as 2650 BC.) up through the Easter Island heads and the Afghanistan Buddhas recently blasted to smithereens by the Taliban, such work was commissioned by those depicted, or for religious purposes. The sculptors aren't even known. They weren't sculptors, in fact, (which is a Renaissance term) but stone carvers, craftsmen held in no higher esteem than bricklayers or carpenters. The real creative force in such ancient efforts came from architects, engineers, priests, and politicians who designed and supervised their work (ancient versions of Jeff Koons without the flowers, so to speak).

Monumental sculpture is seldom thought to be portable, but the encroaching
waters of the Aswan Dam in Egypt during the 1960s forced the elevation of the
Ramses II Temples at Abu Simbel some sixty meters as seen in this scale model.
(The original locations can be dimly seen in the lower left quadrant of the photo.)

For centuries the monumental sculptures of the
South Pacific's Easter Island were referred to
"heads." Who knew? Recent excavations
reveal they also have bodies.

Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty took about ten years from conception to dedication. In terms of monumental sculpture, that's almost like "instant art." Of course Bartholdi had the help of engineer, Gustave Eiffel, and was working with copper plates over an iron skeleton. Chipping away at a mountain of granite or Egyptian sandstone is a "Crazy Horse" of a different color (I couldn't resist that line). Mt. Rushmore's presidential personages, remarkably took only fourteen years to carve thanks to the modern day help of jack hammers and dynamite. The estimated completion date for the Crazy Horse Memorial is: "...sometime in the future."


  1. What about the awesome coral castle of Ed Leedskalin ( To this day no one knows how he accomplished the feat! A huge chunk of black coral which he somehow single-handedly transported over something like 11 miles and then turned into a nine ton gate which is perfectly balanced to the effect that it can be swung open by one person with ease! He said during his life that he had figured out how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

    And to understand the Crazy Horse sculpture better I would recommend the book by Mari Sandoz called Crazy Horse. Here's a cool link on the subject from Western Michigan University ( Of course I would also recommend Black Elk Speaks by John Niehart - the poet. Here's a good link about Black Elk, a peer of Crazy Horse, from California State University ( I would also recommend Mary Brave Birds' (formerly Crow Dog) book, Lakota Woman ( Mary was married to the Lakota Medicine Man Leonard Crow Dog and heavily involved in the Indian activism of the 70's. Her son Pedro was born in the traditional manner at Wounded Knee while the group was being fired upon by the FBI. She was a big force in helping the Native Americans secure their right to practice their religious ceremonies, like the Ghost Dance and the Sun Dance ( which the U. S. government had outlawed. She just recently died which is a great loss to all humanity, in my opinion.

    Of course the greatest sculpture in existence is the Universe . . . it flies.

  2. Wes--

    I'm familiar with the Coral Castle and even looked into visiting it the last time I was in Florida. Unfortunately, it's only open on weekends, which didn't fit our travel schedule. I may do a piece on it sometime in the future though. It's really quite interesting from an artistic as well as a paranormal point of view.

    Thanks for all the Native American references. Of course, the problem is, if I read all that I wouldn't have time to write anything. In any case, thanks, hopefully other readers have more time than I.