New Public Art Explores Race, Gender, Stereotypes
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At a time when politically incorrect statements have embroiled figures including the president of Harvard and a University of Colorado department chairman, Denver is about to unveil a prominent, publicly financed sculpture that probes race, gender and stereotypes in three-dimensional force.
Near the busy City Park golf clubhouse today, a crane will lift into place Meeting of Minds, featuring two giant steel heads—that of a large African-American female in the foreground and that of a diminished white male in the background.
According to the city’s public art chief, the piece is meant to symbolize the different approaches men and women take to building their belief systems.
While males have the tendency to be more rigid in their approach, the female approach tends to be more organic. ‘Meeting of Minds’ reflects the receding ‘rigid’ approach, with the ‘organic’ approach taking prominence, said John Grant, Public Art Program director.
Commissioned with $52,000 in city funds, Douglas Kornfeld’s sculpture intentionally looks out over a prominent crossroads of the races: The African- American woman looks north toward neighborhoods with the most black residents in Denver; she and her female way of thinking appear triumphant over the dying white male. In a further cultural mash-up, City Park was one of the first public courses to welcome black players, yet golf remains the icon of white country-club privilege.
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Douglas Kornfeld’s website
This sculpture entitled: Meeting of the Minds, is made up of two heroically sized steel heads that symbolize two different ways of thinking.
Above: the female profile
The upright head depicts the profile of an African-American woman looking out to the adjacent North Denver neighborhood. The second head, with the profile of a generic male, appears to be sinking into the ground. In the head of the woman there is an oval that, from a distance, looks like a brain. Upon closer examination the brain is filled with a jumble of figures similar in style to the international male and female symbols. These figures are quite different from the usual male and female icons we see every day. They depict men and women in a variety of different shapes and sizes rather than the standardized and stereotypical way. These are thin, fat, tall, short, muscular, and portly etc … . Some even have different sized heads alluding to different ways of thinking.
Above: close-up of male head.
The head of the male figure is filled with the standard international male and female icons we see every day. They are lined up in precise rows male, female, male, female. This arrangement symbolizes a corresponding regimentation of thinking.
As world culture has acquiesced to the use of these figures to portray all people. We can see that more and more they fail to truly represent who we really are. By juxtaposing these two heads I seek to portray different ways of thinking and stimulate a dialog about symbols and how they affect our perception of: diversity, stereotypes, and identity.
(Posted on February 11, 2005)