At the beginning of the Summer, four large metal sculptures were installed on the streets of downtown Salem, the first pieces of a “full public art program” to follow. I wasn’t sure about these sculptures at first (both as works and in situ), but I’ve been watching people, especially children, interact with them for several months, and now I like their presence on the street. The sculptures, by Massachusetts artist Rob Lorenson, will be on Essex and Washington streets until early November.
Unfortunately there is one sculpture downtown that will not be leaving the streets of Salem in November: the Bewitched statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha, which was inflicted on the city by the executives of TV Land (with the full cooperation of the city government) in 2005. Not only is it a terrible piece of “art” (just look at the “cloud” pedestal! ) but it demeans Salem’s history and the prominence of its site, Town House Square, which has long been the city’s political and commercial center.
In stark contrast to the Samantha statue in terms of taste, historical relevance, and artistic merit is the Witch Trials Memorial installation adjacent to the Charter Street cemetery in downtown Salem, dedicated in August of 1992 by Elie Wiesel in a ceremony that marked the culmination of the year-long commemoration of the Trials’ tercentenary. Designed by artists Maggie Smith and James Cutler, the Memorial features a solemn courtyard enclosed by a stone wall incorporating 20 cantilevered steps, inscribed with the name and date of execution of each victim of 1692. It is always a poignant place to visit, and was all the more so on an absolutely beautiful afternoon with the remnants of Irene strewn about.