I approached this statue and was incredibly drawn to her. She sat on top of a fountain pouring into a shallow pool feeding lily pads. She had large angel wings and one foot stretched out, ready to take flight. Around her, pigeons swarmed. Straight chillin', they landed on her head, wings, arms and base.
A statue is a representation—art, but I’ve had an almost obsessive ability to personify anything since I was a child. I once saw a stuffed bunny in Hobby Lobby with a delicate rainbow leg squished between two large display shelves. I desperately recruited my mother for a rescue team and together, we moved shelves in order to save a stuffed bunny’s stuffed leg.
(It was a whole thing..)
So when I stared at this statue being invaded by sky rats, for a moment; I became sad. Here she was, displaying the most stunning wings and yet she had to remain stoic. Birds come and go as they please– flying, resting, and presumably shitting all over her. I identified so much with stone.
Often as a women, it’s easy to feel on display. There is a constant pressure to look “put together”, act “put together”, be sexualized and then shamed. I’ve felt for a long time that even when I am open and honest about my emotions and mental health; it must be done in a calm and confined manner. I must be stoic.
(If I smile when I say I’m anxious, they won’t know I’m going to go into the bathroom to stop breathing) “I’m fine, I’m great, there are sky rats sitting on my face, but we’re good.”
Bystanders give the lady of stone glances and admiration, sit upon the ledge of her pond and then move on with their day. All I can wonder is, how badly does this angel baby want to fly?
Pigeons are inexplicably the most fascinating and disgusting creatures to infest cities, unapologetically pushing their luck. I’m never one to over explain a metaphor, but the pigeons were people, events, even memories; resting on my cold copper shoulders. Sometimes it’s only one pigeon at a time. Keeping me company, keeping me busy; he's a good memory, a task for the day. Other times, it’s 100 pigeons at once swarming, hopping on one rickety foot, prodding at my weathering core with bread filled beaks.
Escaping is difficult when you’ve been built with strong material; no matter how beautiful your creator has sculpted your wings.
The story I have created for the Angel may have no relation on what the average tourist or New York City local believes when they look at her. After I wrote this piece (in order to keep my analysis unbiased), I did some digging into who the Angel was. “The Angel of the Waters” was the only sculpture commissioned during the original design of Central Park in 1868. Additionally, it was designed by a badass B*tch Emma Stebbins. A real pioneer, Stebbins was one of the most commissioned female artists of her time as well as gay. She received nothing but criticism after the unveiling of the sculpture, including a harsh review from the New York Times that wrote, “and when a feebly-pretty idealess thing of bronze was revealed the revulsion of feeling was painful” Here was a woman who gave her life to her art— quite literally. She died from lung cancer that was exponentially worsened by her time working with marble AND went unacknowledged in the obituaries of the New York Times. They could have at least written, “Emma Stebbins, 67, creator of The Angel of the Waters sculpture we all thought was just eh, died yesterday.... Our condolences.” Now that’s some bullshit.
But hey, Emma, I think you're great.