“The Tumbler” by Aris Demetrios (1971), Park Central Square, Springfield, Missouri
As I mentioned in my last post, I am making a month-long cross-country trek before I arrive in New York and step onto the deck of the Queen Mary 2 to begin my journey to Europe.
For the last week and a half, I have been enjoying a lengthy stopover in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri. This city has its fair share of claims on history, seeing notables such as Jesse James and the Younger gang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Bonnie and Clyde pass through town. Wild Bill Hickok killed a man in the town square over a pocket watch. Heartbroken citizens of the Cherokee nation walked through on their Trail of Tears. Nowadays, it is a popular stop for Route 66 pilgrims, but it is probably best known as Brad Pitt’s hometown.
In the last ten days, I have visited with family and friends, attended the wedding of two marvelous young people (it was a beautiful affair, held in a newly-built barn crafted of reclaimed timber), walked my old neighborhood, spent days and evenings visiting on the porch with neighbors, and consumed far more food and drink than is proper for someone who will shortly be attempting to fit into evening gowns. It has been a terrific time, evidenced by the fact that I have very few photos to show for it. This is likely to be the case throughout my travels: when I’m enjoying the moment, it doesn’t occur to me to pull out a camera (read “phone”) and attempt to capture it.
I did manage to get some shots of one piece of local history that I’ve always been fond of. It’s Springfield’s first piece of modern art, and it lives on that same square where Wild Bill dropped poor Dave Tutt. As a kid, I climbed on it with my friends, even in summer when it was hot enough to scald our skin, but no one, not even the adults, knew anything about the sculpture or the artist.
Then a few years ago, the assistant public works director did some research on the piece, and learned that its artist, Aris Demetrios (now 81 and living in Montecito, California), had entitled it “The Tumbler”. That is because the sculpture was meant to be turned every season so that it becomes a new piece of art. It has quickly become a Springfield tradition to re-orient the sculpture four times a year, with ever-growing crowds coming out to watch and make an occasion of the event.
This is the first time I’ve visited the sculpture since it started getting flipped, and though it has been decades since I last climbed on The Tumbler, I can see that the sculpture is different. The familiar panel I could always count on to start the climb isn’t there anymore. But it doesn’t diminish my affection for the piece. In fact, I think that knowing its name and its newly-discovered magic trick has made me grow even more fond of it.
It’s like a giant abstract tumbleweed (is that why it is called “The Tumbler”?). Perhaps it is my own sense of being without roots that makes me like it so. In this moment, we are kindred spirits.
In a few hours I will be on a plane to Chicago, so I’m going to go make the most of this perfect spring day with my mom (Happy Mother’s Day, Janet Jarboe Crow! Love you!).