Week 48 – La Grande Vitesse

It’s name is “La Grande Vitesse”–which translates as “the great swiftness” or “the grand rapids.” Locals mostly refer to it as “the Calder,” for Alexander Calder, the American artist who created it.

It’s a symbol of the city, if not universally loved, if the questions, jokes, and “what the heck is that thing” criticisms of it that I hear are an indication. And it’s creation was part of replacing much of the architecture of historic Grand Rapids with modern buildings and roadways in the 60s and 70s. The statue has been in place for over 50 years now. This is the first time I’ve photographed it.

It’s often photographed from a distance, set in the context of Calder Square and a nice sunset sky. This approach makes for lovely touristy pictures but it takes away from the immensity of the thing. It’s presence is outmatched in my view, however, by the blunt presence of the public buildings around it.

I’m not sure what the artist had in mind. But the way I saw the statue, and the way it looks in these images is vaguely like some sort of monster, perhaps an invading alien arachnid come to eat the people of Grand Rapids. The thing has a kind of domineering menace. The small group of people in two of the above images were listening to music and dancing. They were enjoying the cold, but sunny day. They give a sense of the scale of the thing.

In this last image of “the Calder” you have to look for it, or rather a small version of it, in “where’s Waldo” fashion. Tucked in a corner, amid furniture, it looks cute, a baby monster you might try to adopt before it’s big brother eats you. Note that if you double click on the images, you’ll see bigger versions.

The last couple of shots from this week, hark back to last week’s material. The first is an office building and parking garage complex associated with Spectrum hospital’s downtown campus. You saw bits of it in last week’s images. Here’s what a bigger piece of it looks like. Again, like the government buildings around Calder Plaza, it is domineering in it’s architecture and scale.

The contrast to the Lutheran church again struck me. So, here’s a couple more shots of the church, tucked amid the public buildings and hospital complex. In the first one, you can see a small steeple from the back of the church and the cross of the taller steeple at the front of the church, peeking over the roof another building.

It may have sounded like I was criticizing “La Grand Vitesse” and the architecture of the government and hospital buildings around it and nearby. Perhaps so. But I do find them visually interesting enough to photograph. So there’s that.

As Thanksgiving weekend ends, I’m nervous and curious was COVID-19 havoc will follow in the next couple of week. Maybe that’s why I was seeing menace in the statue. It’s hard not to see menace at the moment, whether in a crowd of people or the in the absence of crowds.

Stay warm. And stay safe.

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