Sunday, August 15, 1999

Chickens take roost in sculpture

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Butch, Fifi and Shaniqua are having romaine lettuce for lunch, and that's appropriate if you live in a high-rise with porcelain chandeliers and Delft tile floors . . . even if you're a chicken.

        Sculptor Joel Otterson feeds and tends the chickens, (two hens and a rooster) who really do live — though temporarily — in his sculpture at the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center, downtown.

        “I thought about using parrots or parakeets,” Mr. Otterson said, “but chickens are more unexpected. Chickens belong in the country, not in the city.”

        The chickens live in a large sculpture of two skycrapers made of copper plumbing pipes. “They're mimicking modernist, Art Deco ... that Superman type of building,” says the nationally known artist, who lives in Covington.

        Titled “The Cage (The Living Room),” the work was created in 1988 for an exhibition at the World Financial Center in New York and has been shown in many locations around the nation.

        Mr. Otterson's work spoofs modern architecture and city dwellers' ideas of farm life.

        “People place their own human values on the chickens. They're impressed that they have such an elegant cage, but the chickens don't care. They're not long on aesthetics.”

        The chickens are in residence at the Aronoff through Aug. 29. Then the sculpture will go into a private collection and the chickens will go back to the farm.

        To become chicken dinner? “I hope not,” Mr. Otterson said. “Once you give a chicken a name you can't eat it.”


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