Speaking of Statues

When we were in Virginia Beth found this pretty amazing place for us all to visit. So five cousins and four adults drove over, parked, and then found this post apocalyptic graveyard of 43 oversized US presidential busts. Once they adorned a private park nearby but it went bust (haha) so they were slated for demolition at the concrete and stone crushing business where they still rest today. To bring them here, the top of each head was broken open to expose the steel framework inside. Then the bust was attached by chain through that opening to a crane and rocked it back and forth till it came loose from its pedestal. The 5-10 tonne statues were hoisted on flatbeds and driven over and deposited unceremoniously here. Abe fell off the truck and the back off his head is blown off. Art imitating life?

Grass and shrubs grows around busts. In some places the ground is squelchy and our provided rubber boots sank ankle deep into smelly muck. We wandered around the statues and assigned their dominant personalities to them. Washington the general. Abe the uniter. Clinton smirking slightly. “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is”. Senior Bush with his lipless frown. Shrub trying to do the tough guy look but ending up only looking vacant.

The statues are one of three series made by Houston artist David Adickes. The first presidential park was in South Dakota near Rushmore in the hope that after people had partaken the giant forms of Washington, Jefferson, Abe and Teddy, they’d want more. The private enterprise didn’t work out but the statues are apparently still there nestled among towering evergreens at the foothills of the Black Mountains. The statues resting now at this stone crushing facility in Virginia was the second attempt. New busts await in Adickes’s outdoor studio under Highway 59 in the middle of Houston, slated for a third presidential park in nearby Huntsville.

A photographer of discarded buildings and his friend give tours of the Virginia statues in the evenings when the stone crushing plant isn’t working. Admission goes towards one day rehabilitating the busts. The guide has a presidential quiz for visitors. Aaron knew most of the answers. I was the first to only answer one. What shipment did JFK receive hours before signing the Cuba Embargo in 1962? Cuban cigars. Specifically 1200 Upmann petits.

I don’t know if the kids learned any history. Perhaps just the weird human need for immortality.

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