THE VIEW FROM HERE
Forest Park Metro Station, St.Louis October 2006
Fabrication by Franz Mayer of Munich
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"The View From Here" is based on the event of the 1904 World’s Fair, a complex and fascinating event which took place in Forest Park, and which drew millions of visitors to St. Louis to marvel at the wonders of the world as they were then represented.
Among the most magnificent sights of the Fair was the 264’ high Ferris Wheel, a rival of the Eiffel Tower as a statement of the engineering of the time. It’s 16’ diameter axle weighed 89,320 pounds. When the wheel was finally destroyed, it is said that the enormous axle was never found. The wheel’s cars were 24 feet long, 13 feet wide, paneled with glass, and could carry enough passengers to host the occasional wedding ceremony, while offering guests magnificent views of the fair. This work takes a “visual slice” through the wheel, as if you were looking through Eskimo snow glasses at it, in elevation. Because there was scant historical drawing information to be found, my slice is a reconstructed fiction, in nearly full scale. It is 240’ across with proportions based on an engineer's drawing, and historical photographs showing the complexity of construction. The 15’ axle depicted is just 1’ smaller than the original, and is slightly tilted, as if caught in a freeze frame of turning. Two worlds follow the force of gravity, appearing to be rolling, caught in motion.
People from all over the world came to the fair. Pygmies, Eskimos, Philipinos, and more set up villages and “performed” their lives for viewers. The sheer complexity of such an event in human terms, and the complexity of modern St. Louis and the Forest Park neighborhood with its ever changing demographic have led me to represent the human figure with an artist’s mannequin, as a stand-in for Everyman. The mannequin/puppet on the right looks through a telescope at the rolling world, the axle, and across to the other figure seated on St. Louis’ horse who gazes back.
The material of the artwork is sandblasted mirrored glass, installed with a protective beveled concrete edge, applied directly to the existing concrete retaining wall. The mirrored glass is both elegant and ghostly, and catches the light as people move along the platform, or pass by in a train, creating a pentimento of what was once there---and looking forward to future developments in art, culture, engineering and science.