WITH A WHEELBARROW AS ITS BASE, Martin Puryear's sculpture C.F.A.O. appears to be an object on the move. The scaffold-like pine element, a visual treat in its own right, also seems to stabilize a mold for a large face.
Viewers are pointed to West Africa by the work's title, an abbreviation of Compagnie Francaise de l'Afrique Occidentale (The French Company of West Africa), and by the source of the simplified facial shape, a ceremonial mask made by the Fang people of West Africa.
In time C.F.A.O. unsettles me. The implication that the mask form is a copy reminds me of the market for objects from other cultures. I need not distinguish between the items collected from a specific society, crafted solely for tourists, or simply reproduced (anywhere in the world) since they are sold simply for decorative purposes. My unease recognizes that cultures "foreign" to me are more than their portable artifacts.
How little I know about others--their lives, their dreams, and even their goods. What appears curiously exotic to me is another's familiar home.
By JERRY BLEEM, O.F.M., a priest and artist who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Image: Martin Puryear. C.F.A.O., 2006-2007. Raw and painted wood, 100 h. x 60 x 76 inches (254 x 152 x 193 cm). Photography: Tom Van Eynde. Courtesy Donald Young G