New York is not usually known as a cow town. But this summer, a veritable herd of fiberglass Holsteins has taken over the city. Cows painted in the cubist style of Piccow-sos, covered with delft tiles, or with "moo-biles," la Alexander Cow-lder, are grazing in the parks, outside skyscrapers, and almost any other public place that will hold four hooves and a pair of horns. Their arrival has turned the city into a veritable mooseum.
Surprisingly, the dairy farm has actually captured the heart of the sophisticated metropolis.
People who can tell whether Picasso was having a good day when he covered a canvas are stopping to admire "Daisy's Dream," Bossy leaping to capture a frisbee in her mouth. Tourists, usually seen contemplating a Rodin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are draping themselves over a Bette Midler cow.
Even the most suave New Yorkers have become admirers. Colin Thomson, who runs the PaineWebber Art Gallery, a respected exhibition space in Manhattan, works with regional museums and sophisticated curators. But just outside his gallery is the Cow-lder, the creation of Brooklyn artist Peter Ketchum, who describes himself as a "farmer facilitator."
"I must tell you there are two cows around this building and there is a lot of photography around here," says Mr. Thomson.
One of those snapping away on a recent day is Michal Sheizaf, a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She's trying to take as many photos of the bovines as she can for a computer graphics class. She plans to scan them into her computer and then make a poster. "I think they are really fantastic," says the Israeli-born woman.
Not far away, artist Martie Holmer is snapping away as sidewalk critics stop to take in her creation - a cow covered in blue-and-white delft tiles. This is her first cow. Normally she says, "I paint in a more abstract style."
As she contemplated the cow canvas, Ms. Holmer wanted to paint something that was "respectful to cows as art." She visited libraries and searched through art books. Then, suddenly she was "mooved": By putting the tiles on the cow, she could say something about the city.
So, the tiles include tales of alligators in the sewers, the ever-present city scourge, roaches, and various city occupations.
"I put a ton of time into thinking about it," says Holmer, who worked 12-hour days to get her Holstein just right.
For some artists, the cow challenge had a slightly more commercial bent.
One of the Medicis of the pasture is Target Stores, which bought a herd of seven cows (each cow cost $7,500) for architect Michael Graves to paint, using the company's logo abstractly draped over the animal. "The fun and whimsy appealed to us," says Carolyn Aberman, director of public relations.
The idea of using animal sculptures to promote downtown areas is turning the US into livestock nation. Artists in Miami dab at flamingoes, Orlando's choice is lizards, St. Paul, Minn., parades the Peanuts gang, Toronto has a herd of 250 moose, and Cincinnati, Ohio, has the Big Pig Gig. And who can forget the six-foot-tall statues of Mr. Potato Head in Rhode Island?
Although New York seems to have embraced the cows, it can't take creative credit. The idea originated in Zurich, Switzerland, where the cows were used to draw people downtown.
A visiting Chicago retailer thought it might be good for the Windy City. So, last year, 300 cows made an appearance in a city known more for its Bulls.
Last year, some Swiss associates started telling West Hartford, Conn., promoter Jerry Elbaum about the cows.
"I was utterly lost," says Mr. Elbaum. "I thought they were talking about live cows." Once he saw photos of the artwork, he says, "I became very bullish about the idea."
Elbaum combined corporate sponsorship with philanthropy (the cows will be auctioned off in the fall to benefit charity). Each artist got $2,000 for the effort. A new commercial art form, "CowParade," has been launched.
And the stampede is on: Cows will show up in Hawaii, Sydney, London, and Houston.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society