Beauty or beast?
After sitting for 11 years in forlorn corners of Trail’s public works yard with nary a view – it’s last call for a metal statue that, since 1974, has been an object of love or loathing depending upon who you ask.
Badly in need of refurbishment, the homage to Picasso is headed for the scrap heap unless somebody steps forward to salvage it.
The city’s Bryan Maloney says crews will even load the extraordinarily heavy piece for its new proprietor – he just wants it gone after moving it around countless times to make way for the public works fleet and inventory.
“It’s not here for perpetuity,” said Maloney. “Anyone who wants it has until May 15.”
Over time, the six-foot statue has become wobbly. So for safety’s sake, the last few years the figure has laid flat on its back (or front?) baking in the sun or resting beneath the leaves of fall and winter snow.
The Picasso-inspired “sculpture” graced the Esplanade for 33 years, although no one really knows what it is – but it’s abstract and that’s the point – beauty, or interpretation, is in the eye of the beholder.
Unfortunately, someone from back in the day had the dastardly idea to paint it garish blue, red and yellow. Instead of being a replica of Pablo Picasso’s cubist style in untouched metal, the sculpture appears to have bulging eyes, unappealing blue “wings” and yellow rods, which some say, represent a lady’s ribs.
There is one ad hoc group from Trail who is actively trying to find it a home. But so far, no one has stepped up.
“We would like to see this refurbished and placed somewhere in Trail rather than be destroyed,” says Mel Johnson.
Coun. Carol Dobie is advocating for the piece because of its intrinsic connection to Silver City industry. The sculpture was fabricated at then-Cominco, by now deceased engineer Joe Szajbely, as a way to mark the opening of the No. 9 Acid Plant.
“Carol thought it might be something to be considered for a part of the new All Wheel Park,” Johnson explained. “(Which is) directly across the river from the smelter where the sculpture was initially expected to be part of the acid plant expansion.”
(Coun. Dobie was not available for comment, however, to date, the city hasn’t shown interest)
The Picasso-replica was removed in 2007 to make way for civic work along the river wall. The following year, the Trail and District Arts Council asked the city if it could restore the statue, then put it back on public display.
For whatever reason, that never happened. Since that time, the statue has largely been forgotten.
Looking back at the piece’s origin, it appears to have been a point of contention from the start.
In a January 2008 Trail Times article, “Picasso-inspired sculpture returning,” retired reporter Lana Rodlie wrote about the Trail statue, which is a copy of “The Chicago Picasso.” Often just called “The Picasso,” the larger scale original still stands in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
The late Joe Szajbely, a former Cominco engineer, saw it on a business trip and thought a replica was just the thing to top off the newly-constructed No. 9 Acid Plant. As the story goes, without authorization from management, Szajbely had a scale model of it fabricated in the Cominco shops. Apparently the company didn’t share his vision, and instructed Szajbely to get rid of it.
That’s when he made a deal with the city to erect it on the Esplanade, and that’s where Picasso stood for 30+ years.
Interestingly, even the original is not without controversy.
Rodlie wrote, “At a cost of $352,000 the piece was pooh-poohed by some of Chicago’s politicians when the 50-foot 162-ton monstrosity was erected in 1967.”
Picasso was offered $100,000 for his work but refused the money, saying he preferred to present it to the citizens of Chicago as a gift. He never explained what the sculpture was supposed to represent. Some speculated that it was a bird, an aardvark or a woman.
In 2008, Rodlie wrote, “The Trail and District Arts Council has no idea how long it will take to restore the replica, but as soon as it’s done, it will be put back on display as an outdoor feature of the VISAC Gallery.”
Now at long last, it’s last call for the Trail Picasso.