Headlong

I’ve shown you Nina Levy’s Headlong flinging her head from the top of the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA twice before: once from the ground looking up, and once from the roof terrace looking askance (scroll about halfway down that second link for shots of Headlong along with Levy’s larger-than-life Big Baby). This is the first time, though, that I’ve shown you where Miss Fling is tossing her decapitated head, out onto the sculpture park where so many art admirers, children, and human-accompanied dogs were enjoying a Sunday stroll yesterday.

Headlong

One reason I love sculpture (and, by extension, sculpture parks) is the three-dimensional nature of the medium. Painting is fine, but as a two-dimensional phenomenon, it sometimes leaves me flat. It’s no coincidence that I love Van Gogh’s thick, textured brushstrokes and often alarm museum guards by viewing paintings not straight-on and from a normal distance but upclose and from one side where I can see the texture of brushstroke and canvas in bas relief. Of the abstract works Leslee, a mutual friend, and I saw in DeCordova’s Big Bang exhibit, my favorites were those that were somehow textured: Clint Jukkala‘s geometric shapes which echoed computer chips in their contours but Navaho rugs in their bright colors and rough, almost furred brushstrokes; Sarah Slavick‘s painted wood panels consisting of intricate geometric patterns layered upon multi-leveled tile-like blocks; and Barbara Takenaga‘s eye-popping patterns which were perfectly flat but created the illusion of swelling swirls through the agency of contour and color.

Headlong

If you’re a fan of angled and multi-perpective viewing, strolling among outdoor sculptures is a literal walk in the park. Although I’ve seen Nina Levy’s Headlong many times since we first met in November of 2005, I’d never before yesterday stood underneath Miss Fling’s outstretched arms, creeping alongside her to look up at her detached and grimacing face. A figure that seems fluid from so many other angles looks truly grotesque when viewed almost eye-to-eye: why would a woman flinging her own head find reason to smile, or is she grinding her teeth against the grip of gravity?

What caught my eye from first glance–and what has continued to capture my imagination in subsequent re-viewings–is the way Levy’s headless woman is simultaneously horrific and humorous. Really, haven’t we all had moments where we wanted to rip our own heads off in order to silence the babble of whatever’s happening inside our inescapable skulls, and haven’t we all been alarmed or annoyed to encounter others experiencing such duress? “There but for the grace of Whatever go I,” we might mutter when we see this Woman on the Edge of a Nervous Toss-down; does “headlong” describe a joyous leap of faith or a desperate jump of despair?

If you think that last image leans toward the side of despair, you’re apparently not alone. It seems Big Baby himself is acutely disturbed by what his fellow artwork is doing unbeknownst behind his back, a nod to the way in which art can both enlighten and alarm.

Big Baby & Headlong