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Three Eggs in Space

On this lunchtime bike ride in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, I ran across an odd-looking sculpture on a grassy spit of land near the corner of Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues (MAP). An odd combination of interconnected shapes, I must admit that the piece evoked mixed feelings in me.  I didn’t know what to make of it. I found it both interesting and odd, we well as welcoming yet strangely out of place. And after learning more about the controversial public artwork, named “Three Eggs in Space,” I found out that I am not alone in my reaction to it.

Three Eggs in Space is a 12-foot tall, 30,000-pound marble and limestone sculpture commissioned Stewart Bartley, the developer of an upscale apartment building named Del Ray Central, as a gift to his neighbors in the artsy community of Del Ray. The slightly tilted piece depicts a massive egg-shaped hollow oval of Texas limestone resting on a half-egg base of East Tennessee gray marble, with a smaller egg made of East Tennessee pink marble sitting inside the large oval. The artwork was fabricated by a company named Custom Marble and Design based on a scale model created by the artist, Karen Bailey.

At the time Bailey was commissioned to create Thee Eggs in Space, she was not working as a full-time artist. She was talking with Bartley about the development of his apartment building at their 30th high school reunion in Knoxville, Tennessee. He told her that his company was required to install a piece of artwork near the building as part of the development contract with the city, but that he had no idea what to do. She told her old friend that she’d like to give it a try, and he agreed to let her.

Like my initial reaction upon seeing the sculpture, Three Eggs in Space has received mixed reviews ever since it was lowered by crane and bolted into the ground on June 23, 2010. The artist describes it as both representational – it depicts three actual eggs – as well as expressive of the feminine and motherhood, with the large, concrete egg representing the mother and the marble egg in the center as the baby. But others have alternately described it as looking like an avocado, a teardrop, a toilet seat, a halo, an eyeball, and as a portal to another dimension.

The opinions about the sculpture are not only diverse, but also divided. Neighbors and passers-by, and even local community artists, either love it or hate it. Some people who like it have said it speaks of home, family and nurturing. But others who don’t like it have described it as cold, silly, and an epic fail.  Far from taking offense, however, the artist has said that she’s thrilled with the swirl of controversy around her work. “Even negative comments are good,” she said. “That means people are paying attention.”

So despite its mixed reviews, Three Eggs in Space is getting people’s attention and has them talking. And sometimes, isn’t that what art is really all about?

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[Click on the thumbnail above to view the full size photo]

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