The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, has a collection of remarkable, eye-catching sculptures (see here for 2 heads I covered earlier: https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/more-heads-mischievous-and-child-like-in-des-moines/ )
But another, huge, symbolic sculpture dominates the plaza, I think. I was especially drawn to it, as I am very interested in language and communication.
Called Nomade (2007), it’s painted stainless steel created by Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1956).
Jaume Plensa uses letters as the basic component in a lot of his art, as he explores communication issues between individuals and cultures. This work depicts an anonymous torso, with a “skin” composed of letters from the Latin alphabet. Plensa has always been interested in ideas presented as written text, as well as in the human body and how it perceives the world around it, and here he has combined the two.
He has described individual letters or symbols as having little or no meaning on their own, but blossoming into words, thoughts and language when combined with other letters or symbols. His shapes in letters offer a metaphor for human culture, in which a person alone has limited potential, but when formed into groups or societies, becomes stronger. Nomade engages the viewer on many levels, from our recognition of the letters that form the shape, to our own physical and emotional interaction with the work as we look at it from a distance or from within it. It’s also not certain whether the figure is holding another smaller figure or not.