Artist Robert Beck visited the statue of Mother Goose in Central Park in the Spring.
By Robert Beck
I visit the statue of Mother Goose in Central Park quite often. She is always dressed in a wide-brim Halloween witch’s hat, surrounded by characters from nursery rhymes (Mother Hubbard, Old King Cole, the Little Lamb, etc.), and perched on top of a large bird in flight. Regardless of the weather, Ms. Goose is invariably smiling.
Frederick Roth, then the Head Sculptor for the Parks Department, created this remarkable figure in 1938, along with more sculptures in Central Park, including another favorite of mine, Balto.
I can’t say I care for all the statues in the park, but why aggravate when you can celebrate, right? With its universal appeal, good humor, and excellent finish, this one is seamless in delivery. Despite the pointy hat, it is not scary in the slightest. Mother Goose sits in front of Rumsey Playfield, behind the Bandshell at 71st, just north of the Zoo. I recommend a visit when you find yourself on that side of the park. Take the kids, but brush up on your children’s poetry first.
Those paying attention will notice that I painted this in Spring. Maybe six or seven months after you put away your black-cat salt-and-pepper shakers and striped stockings.
The Mother Goose sculpture has been residing in the vestibule of my consciousness for years. Why? Because of the language. Frederick Roth drew a direct line from the form he created to a place of enchantment in each of us, using not just his interpretation, but pretty much everybody’s common understanding. I like it when that happens. He created the sculpture when the world was heading toward war. It is a granite manifestation of stories and metaphors that helped us find our feet as children, zipping across the deck in front of us. It echoes, like cards found in an old wallet or a list discovered in a glove compartment. It’s a recalibration, therapeutic in times of stress.
The statue means one thing for the child, another for the adult, and yet another for one with a more distant view. It’s not just a rock; it’s a volume of stories. It’s an accumulation of lessons, charms, and recollections. Overall, it’s an understanding, which is what a work of art should be.
Robert is losing his Upper West Side art studio. Can you help him find another? “The Upper West Side is my place,” he explains. His needs are modest, if a bit unusual. Read about it here. You can reach Robert and see more of his work at https://robertbeck.net/