The Suitcase Lady


February 5, 2019, 9:24 pm

Public art can bring joy or dismay. Either way, I wouldn’t want public money not to be spent on it. People need art because the arts humanize us. Art is never without controversy, and even controversial art serves a purpose: it gets us thinking.

New York City has recently gone on a big binge of public sculptures. One new piece is particularly delightful to me, and I can’t wait to see it in person, preferably on a rainy day. Entitled “SPOT”,  Donald Lipski’s sculpture stands in front of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in Manhattan. The work consists of a 24 foot tall, spotted Dalmatian which is balancing a real New York City taxi on its nose. The cab is sans engine and other guts, but when it starts to rain, the windshield wipers turn on.

Explaining his creation, Mr. Lipski says he wanted the big dog/taxi combo “to have assets we hope to find in our doctors: focus, confidence, patience and sweetness.”

This child-friendly sculpture aroused my curiosity about Donald Lipski’s other installations. I quickly learned that he is one of America’s most prolific creators of art in public places. Scanning through numerous photos of his large scale works, I loved the wit, diversity of materials and imagination he employs. But then came the big surprise: he is also the designer of a sculpture I see frequently and loathe.

The sculpture was commissioned by the University of Wisconsin and stands outside our big football stadium in Madison. A UW graduate, Mr. Lipski named the sculpture Nails’ Tales, after his roommate Eric “Nails” Nathan. The sculpture is a lone limestone column from which dozens of footballs are emerging like some malignant growths.

When asked if the University gave him any guidelines, the artist said the University’s facilities manager and athletic director both asked for “something that projects power and strength. Something that is tall and vertical and holds its space…something virile.”

Lipski adds, “They were without saying, saying they wanted something phallic.”

And that is exactly what Donald Lipski gave them. It is probably a fitting tribute to football, a sport where guys bash each other’s brains out.


3 Comments for this entry

  • Jen

    That Dalmatian sculpture is awesome! As is Canoes and Yearling. But geez, I would gave never guessed he’s behind that awful football one by Camp Randall. An eyesore!

  • eve robillard

    Mary-yes, when I saw the artist’s name I wondered if you knew about the football one. I grew up in a town that had a Donald Lipsky (with a “y”) just down the street from me . . .

  • Elizabeth K Levins

    Totally agree with you on this one. His public art is largely cool, except for the football phallus.