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Stephen Daly: Sculpture as Witness


by Michael Cochran

Controller, 2003. Cast and fabricated bronze, 49.25 x 100.75 x 42.5 in.

Many of us are familiar with the Stage Manager, in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, who observed and narrated the daily events in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Historically, references to this concept of a “witness” or “observer” appear in ancient writings as far back as the Old Testament (Genesis 31: 51–52). But why is it that we rarely see a sculpture that assumes the role? To witness an event, it is necessary to be cognizant and aware of the activity being observed, which, of course, means to fully deploy one’s senses and intellect. Several 20th-century sculptors, including Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Marisol (Escobar), and George Segal, have successfully used the human figure to offer their observations and perspectives on social, political, and personal issues. But in the last two decades, no one has created new work that addresses these concerns as concretely and successfully as Stephen Daly.

 

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