Public art is everywhere in Charlotte. And, not even COVID-19 seems to be slowing it down. In fact, nine new pieces of public art have been unveiled since July 2020 with much more underway.
It’s not hard to learn about recent entries into the public art ecosystem, but what about those that have been in Charlotte “forever?” Information on those classics can be hard to come by.
A Public Art Mystery
The 10-foot sculpture by the Metroview building near the intersection of Caldwell Street and Randolph Road has long been a source of curiosity for us at The Biscuit. Featuring two halves of a mold with the gold-painted impression of a man on either side, this work has seemingly “always been there.”
It was there when Biscuit editor, Tim Miner, drove past on the way to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in high school. And, it was there when he drove past on the way to his sleep apnea test in his forties. But, who made it? What is it called? That’s where it gets murky. There’s not even information on or near the work.
Meet Austin Fox
We turned to Instagram and the wise creative, Cher Cosper, knew the “who.” It’s the work of artist Austin Fox. A dive into Charlotte periodicals revealed that the work was commissioned by Dr. Reed Gaskin and his medical partners for $9,000 and was installed in 1974. There are some reports that Fox’s son was the model behind the work.
What’s In A Name?
The Charlotte Observer reported the work’s title as “Being” in a 1987 article and “Man Mold” in 1991.
The discrepancy of the work’s name is lost to time, but not the story of its “scandal.” With its depiction of male nudity, the sculpture drew complaints immediately, with some talk of relocating it to the Mint Museum.
Of the controversy, Fox told The Charlotte News in 1981: “I said they could just dump it in the river.”
No Stranger to Scrutiny
Controversy and community reaction weren’t new to Fox. In 1967, a sculpture of a nude woman he made was stolen from outside the main library on Tryon Street. In the 1960s and ‘70s, his sculptures of “Femlin,” a nude character wearing only black, hip-high boots and opera gloves, graced the cover of Playboy magazine.
But, “Being”/ “Man Mold” had staying power in the Charlotte consciousness. In 1991, Fox told The Charlotte Observer, “There isn’t a week that someone doesn’t mention that to me.”
Austin Fox Passed Away December 2020
In researching this, we learned that Fox died on Dec. 4, 2020, in a senior living center in Mint Hill at the age of 92. But, his work lives on, creating curiosity … and perhaps a little scandal.
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