Artist’s floating head has ‘met its demise’ after storm and won’t return to Spruce Street Harbor Park
"It had such a dramatic life," said artist Miguel Horn, after he watched a crane operator lift the head out of the water and set it down in the back of a pick up truck.
Miguel Horn turned on Wednesday to look at his sculpture of his father’s head, once floating in the boat basin on the Delaware River and now upside down in the back of a pickup truck.
“It met its demise,” he said of the translucent head, now more skull than sculpture. “Alas, poor Yorick.”
The work, titled Abu, was severely damaged in a post-Halloween storm, the force of the tides ripping it from its base — tides that until that point had gently interacted with the piece, covering and revealing it twice daily.
Abu had prompted a conversation between the artist and his father, Alexander, an Ardmore jeweler, about the nature of their relationship, memory and mortality, control and the loss of it, and the slow revealing of family bonds. But not long after he and his father spent time reflecting on the work, the storm fatally damaged it.
Horn initially thought he could repair it quickly and set it back in the water.
He was able to lift the work out of the mud of the boat basin in front of the Independence Seaport Museum, where it was part of a group installation called “Flow,” and tie it to the dock. But on Tuesday, he said, it broke into pieces.
Wednesday afternoon, a crane operator lifted the bulk of the head out of the water. Then came the top of the head, including the bald spot that was the first thing his father recognized about the piece when he saw it for the first time.
Several other pieces of the acrylic sculpture were pulled out next.
Horn said he believed that the piece could be repaired in his workshop, but that it was too structurally compromised to return to the water.
The “Flow” exhibition ends Dec. 7.
“The river won,” he said.
He mused that his initial conception of the work had focused on isolated pieces of the face, to reflect the fragmentary nature of memory. The piece has returned to that theme, he said.
It is also now mostly a memory.
“It had such a dramatic life,” he said. “A triumphant entrance, a battle into the water.”