The BLOG: Lifestyle

The story of those baby heads on the MFA lawn

Two monumental baby-head sculptures adorn Boston’s linked landscape as they rest on the Fenway entrance lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts. Presiding over the Fenway section of Fredrick Law Olmsted’s metaphorical emerald necklace, the baby heads’ ephemeral, innocent countenances encourage full-spectrum consideration of potential role-reversal relationships between parent and child, teacher and student, servant and master. Their overwhelming presence symbolically links our humanity, defying gender, language, and religion while transcending time.

Fascinated by his four grandchildren, Antonio Lopez Garcia of Madrid cast the allegorical baby-head bronzes, Day and Night, into artistically dense, composite statements of monumental ideal. The complimentary figures capture a resemblance to those he loved so completely in their fleeting baby days. In a book written by Cheryl Brutvan to enhance a 2008 MFA retrospective of the works of Garcia, the former Head of the Contemporary Art Department said of the baby heads, “ the relationship between sculpture and viewer becomes inverted, as the latter goes from being dominate to being dominated.”

(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts-Boston)

(Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts-Boston)

Visitors of the MFA may find they approach the dramatic 10-foot bronzes with a wide range of emotions. Visually, the baby heads are simultaneously curious and contemplative, playful and provocative. They stand day and night, beside a splashy fountain, adding a certain social soulfulness to the MFA’s formal facade. While the baby heads are season-less, they confirm the sure passage of time.

Because of their physicality, nuanced interpretations of the baby heads’ psychological poetry reverberate. Dramatic scale amplifies the dual sculptures’ impact, inviting us to consider the artist’s perspective on monumentilization of this study. Garcia is quoted by the MFA to say, “In our culture, we are surrounded by monuments, from the Sphinx of Giza to the Statue of Liberty. The world of mankind ranges from the everyday to the beyond.” That perception prompted the artist to work on this labor of love, this thesis of time and innocence in this scale.

Twins of these bronzes are installed at the Atocha train station in Madrid. At the station, the artist’s unassuming symbols of life face east and west, further metaphorically expressing, morning and evening, the arc of a journey, the beginning and end.

The Museum of Fine Arts considers Garcia’s epic statement to be somewhat of a rephrasing of a Phidias Parthenon frieze depicting the birth of Athena. The simplicity and enormity of the bronze baby heads elicit a magnetic charm conveying many of Athena’s attributes; consciousness, humility, intelligence as well as truth, justice and moral value.

Mythological representation of idealization have always been included in the universality of artistic renderings. In music, prose, paint, and sculpture, our humanity has been expressed in every stage of the human condition. The Day and Night baby heads who rest on the emerald lawn the Museum of Fine Arts are timeless expressions of love between a grandfather and his four grandchildren. This Sunday, Father’s Day, Antonio Lopez Garcia’s monuments can be a casual stop on your tour through a world-class museum filled with inspired art. Or the baby heads may be experienced as poignant representations of ephemeral innocence and the passage of time that forever links humanity’s innocence — or lack thereof — to our past and future.

Contact Diane Kilgore at [email protected].