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These Chicago Public Artworks Will Give You Nightmares

… and we’re proud to have them all.

Fountain of Time by Lorado Taft   Photo: Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune

Yes, Chicago is famously known for Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, more commonly called The Bean. But this city is home to many more wonderful, albeit sometimes straight-up unnerving works of public art (did you know we have a sculpture shaped like a literal pile of turds?). Now’s your chance to visit some of these works, historical and contemporary, before winter arrives and blankets the city with snow.

Statue of Inez Clarke

Photo: lelya arsan

Graceland Cemetery is home to this beautiful, late 19th-century statue of a girl identified as “Inez Clarke (1873-1880),” who sits gracefully in her Victorian attire. It has inspired stories about the figure escaping from the glass case, and people have allegedly heard weeping while roaming these quiet grounds. Legend holds that in 1880, Clarke tragically died at the tender age of six after being struck by lightning. The problem with this tale is, according to cemetery experts and the U.S. Census records, that no one called Inez Clarke ever existed. A girl named Inez Briggs did die around the same time, and some have speculated that it is she who is buried there. Others opine that the statue only served to promote the work of its sculptor, Andrew Gage.

4001 N. Clark St., Uptown

Shit Fountain

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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If you are among those who indulge in using the poop emoji, this terrifyingly life-size version (sans googly eyes) will definitely be of interest. The unique water fountain — a dollop of fecal matter resting atop a pedestal — was installed by artist Jerzy S. Kenar in 2005 as a reminder to dog walkers to pick up after their pets. Residents weren’t offended by his message; instead, the quirky sculpture garnered a fair bit of appreciation from the residents. Bonus: You can still drink from it!

1001 N. Wolcott Ave., East Ukrainian Village

Fountain of Time

Photo: Howard Lifshitz

“Alas, Time stays, we go.” These haunting words by poet Henry Austin Dobson had inspired Illinois sculptor Lorado Taft to build this magnificent 126-foot-tall sculpture, which depicts Father Time as he watches over a parade of people who have fallen prey to the inevitability of physical deterioration. Aside from serving as a jolting reminder of mortality, the Fountain of Time is also a memorial to the first 100 years of peace between the United States and Great Britain after the War of 1812.

6000 S. Cottage Grove Ave., West Woodlawn

Man with Fish

Photo: phil velasquez/chicago tribune 

The Shedd Aquarium is a heaven for people interested in exploring the aquatic world. But right outside the building is another fish that is physically abhorrent. Yes, we’re talking about Man with Fish by Stephan Balkenhol, perhaps one of the oddest fountains to grace our city. Installed in 2001 as a gift from one William N. Sick, the 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture depicts a man embracing a fish that squirts water from its mouth. The presence of the scaly creature is fitting for this site, but the man is just a strange addition.

1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., the Loop

Eternal Silence

Photo: @swimfinfan/flickr

This eerie statue is another example of Taft’s handiwork. Nestled within the quaint grounds of Graceland Cemetery, it’s associated with many legends. One common belief: If you look closely into the eyes of the hooded, grim reaper-esque figure, you can foresee the nature of your own death. Designed in 1909, this so-called “statue of death” actually commemorates the life of Dexter Graves, a Chicago patriarch who led a group of 13 families from Ohio to settle in this city in 1831.

4001 N. Clark St., Uptown

Striding Figure

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Imagine Tim Burton’s Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, only with overly muscular … everything. This towering, 15-foot statue along the Lakefront Trail is the work of British artist Thomas Houseago, commissioned by the Chicago Park District. Though it frightened some residents after it was installed last year, Striding Figure has now become a beloved part of Foster Beach.

W. Foster Ave., Big Oaks

Magdalene

Photo: David Brossard

Dessa Kirk created this sculpture after the success of her nearby Daphne sculptures — three slender statues of women made out of dismantled car parts, with leaves for hair and outstretched, wing-like arms. (The trio was part of the Chicago Park District’s 2004 Art in the Garden exhibit and have since been permanently installed on Northerly Island.) Inspired by Greek mythology, Kirk depicted another female figure entwined with flowers and plants to express the exploitation of women. Her work draws upon the tale of the nymph Daphne, whose father turned her into a laurel tree to protect her from the advances of Apollo.

Ida B. Wells Dr., the Loop

Agora

Photo: Wikipedia/creative commons

If you’re in need of a dose of the macabre, head over to the south end of Grant Park — home to 106 headless sculptures, weighing 1,800 pounds each. Created by artist Magdalena Abakanowicz and on permanent loan from the Polish Ministry of Culture, this installation is actually a profound and somber representation of the human condition. The work draws on Abakanowicz’s fear of crowds, which she has described as “brainless organisms acting on command, worshipping on command, and hating on command." Made out of iron, it took the artist two years to complete all the figures which have been designed to rust and will eventually turn to dust.

1135 S. Michigan Ave., Streeterville

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