EASLEY — A bit of history came crashing down in last Wednesday’s windstorm, the giant statue of … what was it? Asking around Old Market Square, nobody seemed to know for sure. They only know that it’s been there for a long time.
Well, whatever it was, it’s no more. Or is it?
As it turns out, “the thing” (as it’s affectionately referred to by Easley residents) isn’t an alien, it’s not a person doing weird yoga poses and it’s not a couple hugging — it’s an elephant. And it’s not a statue — it’s a sculpture. By a famous artist.
According to records, in July 1974 sculptor Jon Formo was one of three artists commissioned by the city to create three different pieces to the tune of $12,500.
Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $66,836.39 in today’s money.
Formo was born in Minneapolis on June 8, 1923. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis Institute of Art before continuing his studies in Italy and later, Iowa. Formo went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Formo died in 1999.
“Jon was an accomplished sculptor who loved to work in all media, especially glass and clay,” said artist Kelly Borsheim, a former student of Formo’s who considered him to be a mentor. “He saw the beauty in everyone and in everything. In one class, he sparked our imaginations by throwing a piece of clay across the floor to see what kind of shapes and textures emerged. As a teacher, he guided his students without making choices for them, letting the spirit of the individual shine through.”
The original three sculptures were recorded in the Smithsonian database under the names “Untitled” by Philip Whitley, “Elephant” by Jon Formo and “Weight of the World” by David Acorn.
Formo’s “Elephant” was the last one remaining.
After falling, Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell said the piece was moved by the city into storage until it can be evaluated.
“It’s my understanding that the base was pretty rusted out,” Bagwell said. “We have it here on campus, we just need to decide what it is we’re going to do with it — whether it’s financially feasible to restore it. That’s pretty neat it was made by a famous artist, I was not aware of its history.”
No immediate timetable has been established to determine the fate of “Elephant,” but for now at least, the sculpture is still around.
Love it, hate it, confused by it … no matter how Elephant affects you, there’s no denying that the sculpture has the ability to elicit emotion by passersby.
And that’s art.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.