Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Taste, Bad Taste and the Amusement Factor

Photograph by versluis, copyright © 2011

Located on the east side of the small city of Pocahontas, Iowa is this monumental, twenty-five foot tall Pocahontas statue. This amusing statue is an attention grabber on Iowa’s Highway 3 where the road is a commercial strip through town. Pocahontas is namesake of the city and county and the statue is an emblematic “signature” of community values and virtues. The legendary story of Pocahontas is an endearing icon of honesty, respectability, and hospitality.

While the statue is not meant for commercialism, it does however fit into the architectural idiom of vernacular commercial forms. Presumably the attraction with its folk-art charm helps the economy of the area.

A plaque on the skirt indicates that Albert J. and Frank W. Shaw erected the statue in 1954. An armature and an applied surface utilizing a combination of cement and stucco, is a stable construction material that readily accepts paint pigments, support the structure.

The Pocahontas statue fits into the vernacular commercial builders portfolio along with “the giant ducks, giant milk bottles, giant coffee pots and other curiosities that once lined America’s highways. Ironically, the elements of this antiestablishment aesthetic have recently been co-opted by arbiters of [good] taste as [unvernacular and outsider art].” [1]

  1. Rubin, Barbara. “Aesthetic Ideology and Urban Design.” Common Places, Readings in American Vernacular Architecture. Ed. Dell Upton and John Michael Vlach. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1986. 482. Print.

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