Artworks can end up receding into the background of daily life, respected but not really seen. So it’s been a pleasant surprise to see them steal local headlines lately, in one case because the piece itself had been stolen.
This week’s star turn for sculpture has been the “yarn bombing” of about two dozen outdoor pieces at Wichita State University. Doing a well-behaved local take on the global phenomenon of yarn graffiti, area knitters and crocheters used nearly 25,000 yards of yarn to adorn the esteemed Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection in sweaters, shawls, scarves, hats and more. They had the most fun with Tom Otterness’ 2008 “Millipede,” which is covered in a long, riotously colorful sweater and a multitude of matching leg warmers. The spectacle helped reopen the renovated Ulrich Museum of Art last weekend and continues through 5 p.m. Sunday. The knitting and crochet enthusiasts get credit for celebrating their own creative talents along with WSU’s outstanding sculpture collection.
WSU’s outdoor art also made news recently when police recovered a Walker Hancock bust of Robert Frost that had been stolen in 1987 from its perch in front of Wilner Auditorium. The bronze bust was discovered Aug. 29 in a garage in Lamar, Mo., and returned to the Ulrich Museum the next day. How nice to welcome the piece back to Wichita and WSU, where it soon can resume honoring the great American poet.
Then there is the story of the amicable divorce of John Kearney’s “Two Steers,” the chrome-bumper sculpture that stood outside the Kansas Coliseum for 33 years. One of the steers recently was cleaned up, installed and dedicated at Maize South High School, as the proud mascot for its Mavericks. The city of Wichita plans to repair and install the other steer in Delano Park at Douglas and McLean. The unusual arrangement, which had the artist’s permission, uniquely satisfied both the two groups competing for the piece and Sedgwick County’s need to do something with the art as it sold the Coliseum.
“Wichita is bananas over my work,” the Omaha-born and Italian-trained Kearney once told The Eagle, about the chrome menagerie of his pieces around town.
That popularity endures, as does the power of sculpture to command attention.