There’s one particularly beautiful moment near the end of J.R.R. Tolkienís The Two Towers where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum come upon a crumbling, defaced statue of a king where none has ruled for countless years. Itís fallen head on the ground beside has now sprouted small white flowers around the brow, causing Frodo to exclaim, ìLook! The king has got a crown again!” For a second the scene is illuminated in the setting sun before succumbing to the darkness that pervades the final stages of Tolkienís epic.
However far-removed Wooster may be from Middle-Earth, just to the north of campus, four houses past Overholt, is a statue that recalls this fictional counterpart: a stark white angel, faceless, about 20 feet high, with a bearded head sitting alone beside it in a base of flowers. Neither the statue nor the house is College property ó this is the lawn of a private residence. Nonetheless, for its proximity, it invites comparisons to other sculptures across campus, and it’s a fascinating foil.
The two sculptures on the academic quad generated a fair bit of buzz, both good and bad, for their abstractness, shapes and icons that do not easily resolve themselves. Held alongside to these, the angel is simple, archetypal. Perhaps most remarkably, the angel demonstrates the best kind of† artistic restraint. The birdlike sculpture located next to Lowry, for instance, is fleshed out in dramatic strips of dark metal, wings spread wide ó it looks almost clunky and feeble next to the tall, smooth angel with its hands clasped and its wings folded humbly behind it. And with no subject more horrendously abused with kitsch than angels, the artists deserve our particular thanks.
Intriguing, too, is the statueís material. The homeowners were left with a damaged ash on their lawn following a thunderstorm about two years ago. After excising the lightning-scarred upper portions, they hired a couple from Michigan to carve the angel into the remaining trunk, linking the piece to the greater tradition of art from found or recyled materials.
What might this angel represent, or how might it function, within the Wooster community? Itís certainly amusing to consider the effect the foreboding sculpture might have on students walking up Beall Avenue some Friday or Saturday night at less than peak mental clarity. Alternatively, some might be struck by the resemblance to Tolkien’s defaced statue, as I was. In a sense, its style echoes that of handcarved woodwork Iíve seen in Northern Italy. But its smooth white surfaces, perhaps more so than the busier sculptures on the academic quad, defy any kind of finite signicance, reflect any number of thoughts.
Itís a sculpture and itís an angel, but it’s also a tree. I would encourage the curious student to go and sit beneath it whenever, shall we say, the spirit moves you.