There are things in life that you can walk past a thousand times and never give them more than a passing glance, taking them as a mundane given in your visual landscape. The sculpture above was one of those things for me. Located on the back corner of Foellinger Auditorium on the University of Illinois quad, facing a group of magnolia trees I have grown to cherish, the sculpture is one of the two Sons of Deucalion and Pyrrha pieces by the late sculptor Loredo Taft. But for me, it was simply another inanimate, nameless statue until today.
We were greeted by a springlike day, with crisp, cool air and blue skies. I grabbed my camera over the lunch hour with the goal of taking some botanical photos of emerging flower and leaf buds on the trees around my end of campus. As I came around the corner of the quad toward my favored magnolias, the statue spoke to me in a way it never has.
The shadows from the overhead sun accentuated the way the man hides his face between his knees, and suddenly the sculpture reminded me how much of our lives we spending hiding our faces, embarrassed, timid or scared to reveal true selves, even surrounded the promised safety of our family and close friends. Many of us remain crouched, with our head between our knees, waiting for the turbulence of life to pass. Like these sculptures, if we remain rigid with our faces hidden, the elements will eventually wear us away to crumbled ruins.
In just a couple of weeks, the magnolias that stand opposite the Sons of Deucalion and Pyrrha will proudly and beautifully reveal their true faces. Their glory may be fleeting, lasting sometimes just a few days. But they give us all of themselves, while the sculpture just a few feet away remains eternally poised in shadow.