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Atlanta sculptures tell a sad story

I feel the same way about public sculptures in Atlanta as the Georgia Aquarium feels about customers showing up with a cane pole and a bucket of crickets.

We can do without it.

The controversial 'Buckman' statue is dedicated Friday, Feb. 29, 1999, at Buckhead park. (NICK ARROYO/AJC FILE)

Sadly, one of the most interesting pieces in Atlanta can no longer be appreciated while stuck in traffic.

Buckhead's locally famous "Storyteller" has been moved to a nearby public library. It was replaced with "Aspiration," a 12-foot tall stainless steel sculpture by Atlanta architect and developer John Portman.

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I'm no art critic, and I've not stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately, but here's my take on the two.

"Storyteller," by Alabama artist Frank Fleming, depicts a creature with a man's body and a stag's antlered head sitting on a log holding a potentially magical staff with lanterns atop it. He's surrounded by a rabbit, turtles and dogs. Or he was until someone gave away the turtles. Not sure what happened to the rabbit, but word is he hopped out of town when they started shutting down the bars at 2 a.m.

"Aspiration" is an abstract intertwining of shiny metal which, from a certain angle, looks like a Rubenesque woman bending over . The Buckhead Community Improvement District says it "symbolizes Buckhead’s past and future success" but I think it symbolizes the victory of urban blandness over an overtly pagan motif.

Like I said, I am no art critic.

I prefer the critter statues, but the scorn I've preserved deep in my soul for the Dewey Decimal System means I will never see them again. Neither will most of Atlanta.

The stag made sense. Back when you could get in the history books by lopping the heads of woodland creatures, hunter John Whitley ensconced a large buck’s head on a post near where the tiny park is today. The surrounding area was soon called "Buck Head" and real estate prices were never the same again.

Public art in Atlanta -- at least the sculptures -- is harder to look at than Braves pitching and there's zero chance of moving it to Cobb County.

How did this happen? My theory is Atlanta wanted to spruce up the place before the Olympics came to town in 1996. Due to time constraints and an overwhelming lack of talent, some of the ugliest things you've ever laid eyes on were commissioned.

Olympic mascot "Whatizit" is gone, but these equally cryptic sculptures remain:

  • "Games," located at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and an I-20 exit ramp looks like you gave a giant child too much NyQuil and some rusty toys.
  • "54 Columns," located at the corner of Glen Iris and North Highland, looks like someone bounced a check to a construction company. A disturbingly similar thing is located aside Moreland Avenue in Reynoldstown.
  • The "27 Torch Gate" bridge straddles the Downtown Connector at North Avenue and once led to the Olympic Village. It was so poorly received it was later adorned with a suicide-prevention fence.
  • "Ex-Static," located near the Civic Center Marta Station, sounds like it's an '80s band but looks like a Lockheed Martin accountant combined a junk pile with a tax write-off.






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