So what’s with those heads in Millennium Park?
Living in Chicago, we are lucky to be surrounded by great public artworks. They are perfect for selfies, making memories, and even sneaking a touch. But have you ever wondered what those objects are titled? Have you looked up who the artist is or why the objects are there? I began to ask myself these questions so I did some research on two works specifically- those fountains and giants heads in Millennium Park.
It turns out that the four face sculptures and the two fountains in Millennium Park are all artworks done by the same artist. His name is Jaume Plensa and he hails from Spain. Installed ten years apart, both works are inspired by poetry, music, and dreams. Engagement with the pieces play a large role as the artist wants you to reflect emotionally while interacting with each sculptures’ structure.
The two large glass fountains are titled Crown Fountain and arrived in Millennium Park in July of 2004. The fountain is made of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet tall and use LEDs to display digital videos on their inward faces. Crown Fountain caused some controversy when it arrived. Some felt the sculpture’s height battled the overall aesthetic tradition of the park. This was smoothed over and the artworks were then installed. After construction, surveillance cameras were installed on the top of each glass structure. These were quickly removed after public outcry demanded they come down.
The videos of faces that appear on the fountains rotate over the hundreds of people from Chicago Plensa documented for the project. Faheem Majeed, a locate artist, found his face on the sculpture recently, almost 12 years after he sat for the documentation.
Near to the fountain sit four heads- three brown in color, the last is white. The larger white sculpture of an elongated face is titled Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda. Awilda is 39 feet tall and made of marble and resin. It arrived from Spain in 15 separate pieces which were then bolted together. “She is real,” Plensa has said. “She was a young girl when I made this, maybe 9. She is from the Dominican Republic. She came to Spain with her mother and now is officially Spanish. She is one of the women I have collected.” The eyes are closed “because we keep beauty inside ourselves, and one day we all need to look inside.”
While doing this research I also found a terse conversation had between the artist and a visitor. It read:
“Are you the artist?” she asked Plensa.
“I am,” he said, “and I did the Crown Fountain too.”
“You did!” she declared.
“I did,” he said.
“Such lovely work,” she said.
“Chicago,” Plensa whispered once the woman left. “Chicago, it has been very nice to me.”