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The Way to Climb Art – By Samuel Phineas Upham

By Samuel Phineas Upham

In New York City’s Central Park there is a bronze statue that has garnered the attention of thousands if not millions of children. It’s the “Alice in Wonderland” statue. Children from all over the world have polished and worn down the statue with their tiny hands, knees, and feet, similar to the way this small boy is climbing it now on this Friday afternoon in March. After stepping on the rabbit’s top-hat he finally rests on Alice’s shoulders, immersed in the fairytale. While growing up in New York City, another little boy enjoyed the same pleasure – I had a lot of fun on this jungle-gym of imagination.

Depicting the stories of Lewis Carroll, this statue takes one out of this time and space and into a place of communal imagination. Many New Yorkers are drawn to this statue despite race, culture or ethnicity. Located next to the boating pond in Central Park, the sculpture’s relatively round shape makes it viewable no matter where one stands. The sculpture, nearly fifteen feet tall and twenty feet wide, features Alice sitting on a giant mushroom surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and other characters from Lewis Carroll’s fairytale.

The original statue has a brown hue, but it has been touched and polished by so many children that at certain places the metal is a bright gold. Art is rarely experienced by touch, which makes this sculpture more a part of the landscape than it does something that would belong in a museum.

The regular interaction between children and the statue makes the statue seem incomplete when at least a few children are not in the picture. Whether viewers have read the book or ask about it after they see the sculpture, the experience allows them to physically interact with a world that might have only lived in their minds or on the page.

The statue in Central Park is not the only art worth climbing. It can be argued that art is something we all desire to climb, physically or spiritually. Art is climbable as we attempt to grasp the artist’s insights, climbing outward and inward.

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