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Turns out, most everyone remembered it, but few knew what happened to it. She wrote a 2011 blog post about her quest to find what she called "The Angel of Merle Hay" and watched the nostalgic responses pour in. Last year, dsm Magazine took up the subject and received similar enthusiastic online response. And now trendy T shirt shop Raygun is putting him on a T shirt.
Abbell wanted to choose a more conventional piece, so he told Lamensdorf he would also add one of his own choosing.
Comito eventually found UpDown by visiting the backyard of Jerri Scott, who lives in northeast Des Moines, a former art student and current money management counselor, who calls the statue "Merle."
"I made an offer; she laughed," Scott said. "I asked again every time I saw her, and finally she accepted my offer."
It offended as many people as it attracted, said Abbell's granddaughter Elizabeth Holland, chief executive officer of Abbell Associates in Chicago, owners of the mall.
But why? Certainly there were critics who didn't consider it a grand piece of Balenciaga Bag Mini Black art. Even Scott doesn't.
How could they forget the winged naked man, his narrow face in a state of anguish and concentration, absurdly bent over a little tricycle, his bronzed genitals flopping over the cross Balenciaga Wallet Small
"The Vietnam War was raging; there was a political element in everything," Jacobsen said. "But it wasn't done as a protest."
"(UpDown) was chosen by his partner because of its ability to engender controversy," Holland said. "That kind of pushing the edge artwork has a place. As far as my mall, that is not one of those places."
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Others saw it differently. It was a different era with fewer pieces of public art on display in Des Moines. Media reports quoted sources that were either confused by its message, offended by its nudity or assuming a political message having to do with President Richard Nixon's nickname that began with "tricky."
"It left with so little ceremony, I don't think people had time to consider what happened to it," said Comito, 27. Here, then, is how a naked man on a trike became a cultural icon of Des Moines, and how it was rediscovered.
Joseph Abbell built the Merle Hay Plaza in 1959 as one of the first of its kind in the Midwest. It was enclosed in 1972 and began an expansion to the west.
"To me, the sculpture is a political statement. No, I'm not going into it. That's part of the fun of letting other people look at it."
Although it was a fun venue for young children, using it as a makeshift jungle gym and its brick pedestal as a slide, as late as 1987 it was still stirring up feelings in The Des Moines Register. A mall walker told columnist Julie Gammack it was offensive and he was going to lead a protest to have it removed.
Back in 2000, her friend and mall manager at the time, Linda Johnson, asked a social gathering if anyone wanted to buy the winged man, placed in storage when the mall was remodeled in the 1990s.
"But it is a great Des Moines icon for maybe two or three generations. It cracked me up. It made me laugh and I've been getting emails out of the blue ever since. It's worth every dime I put into it."
When it was finished, Jacobsen called it UpDown, reflecting the highs and lows he experienced as a young man, soaring on wings one minute and down the next, pedaling furiously to again gain flight, the very comedy/tragedy of life and its absurdity in full frontal view.
Merle Hay Mall's naked angel on tricycle sculpture landed on Thompson Avenue
Jerri Scott talks about the diamonds she noticed on the ears of her backyard sculpture. Scott purchased UpDown, a former Merle Hay Mall sculpture, after it sat in storage for years. Scott calls the sculpture "Merle" and enjoys the whimsy and controversy surrounding the artwork.(Photo: Mary Willie/The Register)Buy PhotoMerle Hay Mall was the place to be for Des Moines kids before suburban malls, so an unsettling piece of public art displayed there from 1974 until it was quietly placed in storage in the 1990s was forever burnished into their memory.
"The newly built space cried out for something original, something powerful in addition to the rows of stores so like every other mall," said Len Lamensdorf, Abbell's business partner in the mall who today lives in California.
But it stayed right on its perch for nearly 25 years. And years later it was still in the mind of Comito, who one day got an email to an online query about it. Would the statue spanker like a chance to see him again?
"It was kind of creepy and unsettling, a strange thing to see in a mall," Comito said in a telephone interview.
That's where a young California artist came in. Mark Jacobsen had been working on paintings and drawings, and when Lamensdorf commissioned him to do the mall job, he jumped at the chance to work in another medium, with no restrictions. "I was 25 at the time. I was happy to do something to get some attention," he said of the project that took a year and landed him $15,000.
"I always thought it was a hoot," said Scott, who worked in the mall for 25 years and often pondered Merle. "You've got a naked winged man riding a bicycle, what does that say? Why would this giant of a man with seven foot wings and ability to fly be riding a bike? Balenciaga Velo Size
Now adults, they still remember the nightmares it caused, or the dirty giggles.
Jade Comito wasn't the first to wonder what happened to it, only one of many to revive its memory online. She left Urbandale to attend art school, then settled into a job as a hotel desk clerk in Minneapolis. She would ask Des Moines visitors to the hotel if they remember the sculpture that terrified her as a youngster but in later years served as a perfect opportunity to embarrass her mom on shopping trips. She would spank his naked butt.
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