You’ve probably seen Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures in a picture or in your town. They’re hard to miss. A giant spoon with a cherry? Maybe a bow and arrow? Or a lipstick on a caterpillar track?
Oldenburg was a Swedish-born artist with a degree from Yale, who started off creating plaster reliefs of food and clothing items. It wasn’t until later that he began to think big, real big. His first big show was “The Store” where he displayed ‘food’ made from fabric.
The first large scale sculpture was Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks and it was commissioned by Yale students through funding from the Yale School of Architecture. They called themselves the Colossal Keepsake Corporation.
Having a snarky sense of humor, Oldenburg constructed Lipstick as a political statement and a social commentary on militarism and the (improper) shape of the cosmetic item meant for women.
Following Lipstick, came Spoonbridge and Cherry, Clothespin and Cupid’s Span. In his later years, he collaborated with his wife who supervised the fabrication and siting, while he did the drawings.
Claes Oldenburg passed away today in Manhattan due to complications after a fall. (1929 – 2022)
Denver Connection: Oldenburg often worked with Frank Gehry, an architect, who is responsible for the construction of the Denver Art Museum.
Great Quote: “The only thing that really saves the human experience is humor. I think without humor it wouldn’t be much fun.” – Claes Oldenburg