People usually celebrate it with paper, yet days before Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann rang in their first wedding anniversary, they were busy welding the last of several tons of scrap metal onto Passage, their sculpture near the entrance of Pier 14. The slice of prime waterfront adjacent to the Ferry Building formally opened to the public June 16, buoyed by the curiously impressive sight of a giant mother and child made of plumbing pipe and found objects.
Instead of going on a honeymoon after their wedding on June 18, 2005, Cusolito and Das Mann took a “workingmoon” to construct Passage at a metal shop in West Oakland in time for Burning Man. The sculpture, inspired by Burning Man's children's camp, was selected for a six-month stay in San Francisco, funded by Black Rock Arts Foundation (an independent nonprofit that seeks to spread the spirit of Burning Man — although it's unaffiliated with it — by curating temporary public art projects).
Passage is daunting. When illuminated at night, it strikes a sinister, almost Creature From the Black Lagoon-type shadow from the street. But Leslie Pritchett, executive director of BRAF, believes that all dialogue on public art (whether positive or negative) is a valuable tool in helping to unify a community.
“Artwork often has a role of encouraging conversation or encouraging people to ask questions or reconsider either the art or the space or the relationship to one of those things in a new light,” she says. “And when you work to place things on a temporary basis, you can choose things that are more challenging or controversial and [city officials] are more comfortable about saying yes.” Pritchett hopes that Passage will galvanize interest in Pier 14 as a new public space, much the way that the nonprofit's installation of artist David Best's wooden temple did for Hayes Green last year.
Two days before the unveiling, Das Mann likens the anticipation to his wedding. He expects to feel something like the intense sensation of having about 350 pairs of eyes trained on him and his bride.
“It's interesting that it is going to happen two days before our anniversary,” he adds. “Maybe we'll say that this is the end of our honeymoon.”
Bang, zoom, to the moon!