There was a decapitation on the Delaware River early Friday. And now a Philadelphia artist must put his father’s head back together again.
Miguel Horn knew his giant acrylic sculpture of his father’s head, titled Abu, would be subjected to various forces of nature. It was designed to float in the boat basin in front of Independence Seaport Museum, where tides cover and reveal it daily.
But the overnight squall that tore through the Philadelphia area literally ripped the hollow head off its base, which was spun around nearly 100 degrees by the storm surge, leaving the likeness of his father, Alexander, stuck on its right ear in the muck of the boat basin.
On Friday, Horn, 36, arrived at what he called a “pretty gruesome” sight, something between Humpty Dumpty and a fallen dictator’s statue, and set about putting his 600-pound sculpture back together again.
He drilled holes into the head to allow water and air to pass through, stabilizing it, and lamented how his high-minded decision to let his artwork interact with the wild had nearly destroyed it.
As he worked, the severed head was again swallowed by the tides, but he said it was securely stuck in the mud and would not float away.
He called his father to tell him the news. Then he called a crane operator, who he said would be able to get to the site next week to lift the head out of the water and allow Horn to repair it right there. “The game plan is to get it out of the water, fix it, and get it back in,” he said.
The piece is part of an art installation of floating installations called Flow, a collaboration of Philadelphia Sculptors and the Independence Seaport Museum. The other pieces, which mostly float on top of the water, did not appear to have been damaged by the storm.
“This is the first time I’ve tried to control the forces of water,” he said. “Lesson learned.”
In Sunday’s Inquirer, read more about Horn’s art, and about how Miguel’s father reacts to the piece as father and son watch it appear and disappear, and look for deeper meaning.