British conceptual artist Gillian Wearing has created a bronze statue honoring the late photographer Diane Arbus. The statue is presented by Public Art Fund and will be in Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park in New York City until August 14, 2022.
‘In her bronze ‘Diane Arbus,’ we see the posthumous homage to a pioneering artist by another from a different time and place,’ says Public Art Fund Artistic and Executive Director Nicholas Baume. ‘We also see a modest, unassuming figure, standing at the entrance to Central Park, recognizable by the most distinctive attribute of her public self: her Rolleiflex camera.’
The life-size statue is presented at street level without a base. It includes a plaque that includes a quote from Arbus herself. ‘If you scrutinize reality close enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic.’
To create the statue, Gillian Wearing used a lost-wax casting process. Wearing did research and worked from many source photographs to create the final bronze statue. In 2008, Wearing created a photograph, ‘Me as Arbus,’ in which Wearing dressed up convincingly as Arbus.
Of the statue, Public Art Fund said, ‘Wearing’s personal tribute to another artist offers a new way to think about and present a public monument while prompting us to reflect on who gets chosen to be the subject of a public sculpture.’
It’s unfortunately rare that a female artist is honored with a public sculpture. Arbus herself hasn’t been discussed enough, given her contributions to photography and art. It wasn’t until 2018, 46 years after her tragic death at age 48, that she was given an official obituary in The New York Times as part of the publication’s ‘Overlooked‘ series of obituaries for people who had been overlooked at the time of their death.
An excerpt of Arbus’s obituary in 2018 reads:
‘Diane Arbus was a daughter of privilege who spent much of her adult life documenting those on the periphery of society. Since she killed herself in 1971, her unblinking portraits have made her a seminal figure in modern-day photography and an influence on three generations of photographers, though she is perhaps just as famous for her unconventional lifestyle and her suicide…After decades of intense examination of her work and life, perhaps there is room to understand Arbus as a woman driven by artistic vision as well as personal compulsion, and her photographs as documents of empathy as well as exploitation. Arbus herself hinted at the difficulty of understanding and interpreting images.’
The obituary also included a quote from Arbus, ‘A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.’ You can learn more about Diane Arbus in the ‘Masters of Photography’ documentary from 1972 below.
Image credits: Photos courtesy of Nicholas Knight and the Public Art Fund, used with permission