Head in hands

The Zippy from the 13th, in which the Pinhead mocks a piece of metal public art:


This is a Zippy, so you can be sure that there’s an actual piece of public art that looks like this (though it took quite some time to find it, and then I stumbled on it by accident — a happy accident, as it turns out, which got me to the work and the sculptor through a Dutch bronze duck.).

Then the figure in the sculpture has its head in its hands — a gesture with a variety of possible meanings, seen in other sculptures. Which of course were the ones I found when trying to identify the statue in #1.

And Bill Griffith has salted the strip with two textual references: “The Sculpted Word” (the title), and “Man in Search of …” (last panel).

The texts for the day.Text 1: Bernard Frischer (Dept. of Informatics, Indiana Univ., specializing in digital applications in  archaeology and cultural heritage), The Sculpted Word: Epicureanism and Philosophical Recruitment in Ancient Greece, 1982, about the power of a sculpture of Epicurus in the Capitoline Museum in Rome; more routinely, about how the Epicurean school of philosophers recruited new members into its community.

(#2) Epicurus is seen to be portrayed according to the conventions of contemporary Greek art as a philosopher, father-figure, Asklepian healer, Herculean culture-bringer, megalopsychos (“great-souled” man), and god” (from Frischer’s site)

Text 2: Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933) a book of psychological essays written by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. (Wikipedia site here):


Gestures. The book is sometimes paired with a drawing of a man with his head in his hands, in despair:

(#4) (I haven’t identified the source of the drawing)

The two-handed Head in Hands gesture, conveying: despair, desperation, grief, or sorrow. Seen in the figure in #1, extracted here:


Head in Hands is closely related to the Facepalm gesture in the emotions it conveys

From my 7/3/12 posting “Rainbow cookie facepalm”:

from Wikipedia: A facepalm (sometimes also face-palm or face palm) is the physical gesture of placing one’s hand flat across one’s face or lowering one’s face into one’s hand or hands. The gesture is found in many cultures as a display of frustration, embarrassment, shock, or surprise [or disappointment, exasperation, horror, exhaustion, sarcasm, or incredulous belief].

From sculpture (one of the works Google produced in my search for the source of #5):

(#6) Henri Vidal statue in the Tuileries, Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel (‘Cain after killing his brother Abel’), 1896

And in popular culture:


Another in the family of gestures conveying pain of one sort or another is Two Hands at Forehead (as if coping with a headache), as in Jean-Charles Ferrand’s 1996 bronze Exil (another product of Google searching):


Or more elaborately (with the hands wrapped around the forehead) in this 6-inch polyresin “kneeling male nude figure with head in hands”, by an unknown artist (available on amazon.com from Old River Outdoors (an outdoor and sporting goods company):


My Google search also netted some Two Hands at Chin sculptures, which convey thoughtful observation, thought, or reflection rather than pain. As in this   Joy Brown bronze, “Sitter with Head in Hands”, on view at 79th St. in NYC, in a 2017 Broadway Malls installation of her work:


Inevitably, my searches also pulled up instances of the Chin on Hand gesture, conveying thought, reflection, creativity, and the like, most famously in Rodin’s 1904 bronze “The Thinker”, which has been endlessly parodied and re-imagined, wittily in this Zinkglobal artwork (constructed of scrap metal) by Kim Michael (“TheZinker”) in Copenhagen harbor:


During these searches, I enlisted the aid of Juan Gomez, on the theory that two searchers would be better than one. What he found was this enchanting bronze duck, in a children’s fairytale play park in the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen:


Also from the park, fairytales in bronze:


From the Art Weekenders site on 7/30/14, in “Tom Otterness’ Fairytales at Sea Along Scheveningen Beach”:

The 23 sculpture groups found [along the beach at the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen] are called ‘SprookjesBeelden aan Zee’ – or in a language we better understand: the ‘Fairytale Figures by the Sea’ – and they are the creations of the American Tom Otterness. These works of art became a reality as per the initiative of the Museum Beelden aan Zee, one of the hidden art gems of The Netherlands and the only institution in the country focusing fully on modern and contemporary sculpture. The museum is a privately funded and managed venue that opened in 1994 by the Dutch art collectors Theo and Lida Scholten. Ten years later, in 2004, the couple popped the idea about this freely accessible sculpture park a stone throw away from the beach to Tom Otterness and the American artist wasn’t late to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

… While all sculpture groups … depict characters from fairy tales (known and less known ones), there is often a slightly disturbing element to them, a bit of seriousness among all the fun. If you pay attention you will notice signs of oppression, greed, power depicted in his works.

The park is one of many artistic works that work for kids in one way and adults in another: The Wizard of Oz (both the book and the 1939 movie) and, as it turns out, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, as in this NYT story yesterday, “They All Love a ‘Yellow Submarine’: Very Young Beatles Fans Sing Along” by Amanda Svachula, about a Yellow Submarine singalong for young children in Greenwich Village:

“Yellow Submarine” is filled with coded drug references, as befits a rock film from 1968, but it works on a kids’ level as well.

Works splendidly, apparently.

Meanwhile, back at the Dutch fairytale park, there is, yes, one of three castings of Otterness’s Crying Giant:

(#14) The original of #5, in an installation in Kansas City MO

On the artist, from Wikipedia:

Tom Otterness (born 1952) is an American sculptor best known as one of America’s most prolific public artists. Otterness’s works adorn parks, plazas, subway stations, libraries, courthouses and museums in New York City — most notably in Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City and Life Underground in the 14th Street – Eighth Avenue New York City Subway station — and other cities around the world. He contributed a balloon (a giant upside-down Humpty Dumpty) to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

His style is often described as cartoonish and cheerful, but also political. His sculptures allude to sex, class, money and race. These sculptures depict, among other things, huge pennies, pudgy characters in business suits with moneybag heads, helmeted workers holding giant tools, and an alligator crawling out from under a sewer cover. His aesthetic can be seen as a riff on capitalist realism.

…  His studio is located in Gowanus, Brooklyn, in New York City.

On the Kansas City installation, from the CultureNOW website:

Crying Giant, the 5,700 pound sculpture, sits at the Southeast side of the Kemper Museum [of Contemporary Art in Kansas City MO]. This piece was added to the collection in 2002 and is one of three that were fabricated. The somewhat “local artist”, Tom Otterness, from nearby Wichita, Kansas, is internationally known for his public art works. Tom’s cartoonish figures depict cultural narratives, and are often suggested of enacting political statements on capitalism.

A third casting was installed in the Sculpture Park at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington in 2005.

Meanwhile, Zippy the cartoon character objects to the childish, cartoonish qualities of Crying Giant. Why, anyone could strike the pose in #5 and #14!

(#15) Crying Pinhead

Note especially the topknot and the feet.

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