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'The Big Red Man' Says Goodbye

This article is more than 11 years old.
Ozymandias is being uninstalled Thursday. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Ozymandias is being uninstalled Thursday. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln is saying goodbye to an old friend. Maybe you know him.

He's big. He's red. He's been greeting visitors at the deCordova for the past three years.

But on Thursday, "Ozymandias" — the hulking, 18-foot-tall sculpture of a flat man's torso — is being ceremoniously uninstalled.

“You know, we like to change things in the sculpture park, not at a rapid clip, but a robust clip,” curator Nick Capasso explained, “and this is the first time we're actually having events around the departure, because we know that some people need to say goodbye to this sculpture.”

Capasso affectionately calls the beloved work, “Ozy.” Others, including myself, refer to him as, “the big red man.” As part of Thursday’s party, local schoolchildren will read poems they’ve written to bid the sculpture a fond farewell.

Cambridge artist Douglas Kornfeld created the big red man for the museum. The piece appears to be rising — or possibly sinking — into the sculpture park’s lush lawn, depending on your mindset. The sculptor named him "Ozymandias" after the famous short poem by Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822):

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

"Ozy" was originally commissioned for a one-year stint in the deCordova’s park, but Capasso said they decided to hold on to the piece for a few more years because it was wildly popular.

“He’s kind of become a logo for the institution, and that might be one of the reason's he's got to go. You know, we've got 60 other sculptures, and it's not all about 'Ozy!' ” Capasso said.

Then the curator laughed at himself because he said it’s challenging to refer to the inanimate artwork as anything other than a “he.”

But artist Doug Kornfeld is pretty consistent with his pronouns.

“I will miss him very much,” he wrote in an email. “I've been collecting photos of him off the Web and so far have almost 200. And, these are just the ones people have uploaded to public sites.”

Kornfeld plans to publish a book of those images.

“When it’s done, I'll donate a copy to the deCordova Library,” he said.

When asked about where "Ozy" will go next, Kornfeld coyly replied, “His next whereabouts are confidential. He wanted some private time to gather his thoughts. He has a cousin permanently residing in Wuxi, China. I completed that commission last year. I'm talking to a few places outside of Massachusetts, but so far no firm commitments. I am hopeful, however.”

"Ozy" Poems By Local Children

Winner – Under 6

You big red man,
I'll see you.
You're very red and
Red is my favorite of them.
I'm sad that you're moving.
But how will they move you?
How will they move you?

-Quinn Colleran

Winner – Ages 6-10

the biggest man in the world,
towering down over us,
seeing whatever we do,
but no one knows why.
King of kings,
proud and bold,
what do his mysterious legs look like,
big and fat,
Or skinny and small.
No one knows the mystery of Ozymandias,
but you can imagine.

-Enzo Goodrich

Winner – Ages 11 – 14

Buried in a forest of changing foliage
Buried in a ground of seasons
Buried expression in red.

-Natalie Good

Winner – Over 18

a guardian lives in grass or snow,
his crooked form half sunk below.
red feet and legs he does not show,
a secret form I cannot know.

for lower than the surface live
although concealed, two restless limbs
they scratch in earth but never give
the crowd above a reckless glimpse.

the giant yearns since long before
to stand up so he might explore
the place which anchored him so well,
the soil that saw he never fell.

not knowing yet his future home
the creature bred from Shelley's poem
seeks fame and fortune, far beyond
the waters of the sandy pond.

-Tim Antonie Berendsen

This program aired on April 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.



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