Gwendolyn Brooks thought it looked stupid.
Chicago's Pulitzer Prize winning poet hadn't yet set eyes on the new sculpture the city had asked her to laud. The 50-foot-high, 162-ton monument was being installed behind screens at the Civic Center, out of sheets of COR-TEN, the same steel used in the building behind it.
She had only seen photographs.
"The pictures looked very foolish," the future poet laureate of Illinois later said, "with those two little eyes, and that long nose."
But a gig's a gig, though her foray into occasional verse reflected her unease.
"Man visits Art, but squirms," she read at the unveiling, Aug. 15, 1967 a grand public ceremony where 50,000 Chicagoans — at least according to police estimates — were serenaded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra while waiting to meet the sculpture that some predicted might replace the Art Institute's lions as a symbol of the city.
The city had certainly seen the sculpture before it was unveiled. The previous September, the 42-inch model that Pablo Picasso had donated to the city went on display at the Art Institute.
The work had no title, and Chicagoans debated what it might be. A woman's head? An Afghan hound? A seahorse? A baboon? The Tribune called it a "predatory grasshopper." Mayor Richard J. Daley said he saw "the wings of justice" in the sculpture, and his was the opinion that really mattered....
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