A landmark status sculpture titled, "Chain Reaction" by three-time Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist, Paul Conrad (June 27, 1924 to Sept. 4, 2010), which was erected in 1991 and is located in Santa Monica, has been in the news of late. The sculpture is 26-feet tall formed in the shape of a mushroom cloud covered in chain. After over 20 years the underlying structure is deteriorating and the chains are falling from the sculpture. "Chain Reaction" has been deemed a safety concern and is now fenced and labeled with cautionary signage. It is this state of disrepair and what to do with this "statement of peace" sculpture that is prompting a city council vote.
Interestingly, for a sculpture meant to be a symbol of peace, this piece has been steeped in divisive energy since the artist first proposed gifting the sculpture to Santa Monica. More citizens recommending against the sculpture than were in favor of its acceptance.
Your art examiner previously wrote an article about this art work in March, 2010 finding the sculpture to be a delightful surprise (to her it appeared to be a tree fashioned from chain). With the news of its disrepair and uncertain future, she decided to see for herself the current state of this peace piece.
She made the trip sincerely expecting to be moved to champion the side of the sculpture's restoration fully knowing that thousands of dollars have already been spent pondering this conundrum and knowing many more would need to be invested, some estimates as high as half a million dollars, to bring this sculpture back to its original glory.
Standing as close to the foot of the sculpture as the fence would allow, gazing on the hole in the sculpture's structure and the dangling chain, the view seemed almost poetic. How does something covered in chains represent peace? Yet, the sculpture's current state of disrepair, chains falling away, seemed more to symbolize a promise of peace to come than the sculpture's intact state. These musings changed this art examiner's perception.
Now your author is not from Santa Monica. So perhaps no one there really gives a peace prize about her musings or suggestions. Yet sometimes it seems that fighting for what has been does not evoke the energy of peace. This sculpture has had a place of honor for over twenty years. In many ways that could be considered a good run. Retiring the piece doesn't have to mean it will be forgotten. If nothing else, it will be remembered digitally for many years to come. Also, in a state (California) where many deserving programs, such as education, are sadly underfunded, spending thousands of dollars to save this sculpture doesn't seem like a prudent investment. Makes your art examiner wonder what the panel of the TV show, Shark Tank, would say.
Of course, some art purists might argue that when it comes to art, money should not be a concern. At this point keeping money out of consideration would seem to be a moot point. Money is a consideration.
Santa Monica's community and cultural services director has recommended that $20,000 be spent to temporarily patch and secure the sculpture. Your art examiner is here to suggest that with a teeming art community of capable artists in Los Angeles (L.A.), what if it would be a more sound economic investment to pay one of these artists $20,000 to reinvent a sculpture of peace for this generation and generations to come? Perhaps the piece could be commissioned with the proviso that it be something maintenance free and maybe something to have fun with, as well.
For Santa Monica's consideration, this author imagined a sculpture of the universal hand symbol for peace, two fingers forming a "V" shape. The sculpture could be fashioned from bronze or stone or something similar. Or maybe it could be formed from plastic and painted. Then perhaps it could be painted, say annually, with differing interpretations of peace by an L.A. area artist. What else might be possible?