The Fussy Eye: Big Bird

The steel penguin.

Designed by Philadelphia sculptor Leo Sewell, the feathered sentinel overlooking the lobby of Pacific Place is hardly a friendly greeter or concierge. Children could be frightened or fascinated by the scrap-metal figure, almost 10 feet tall. Back at the north end of the mall, in front of the Twist jewelry and toy store, Penguin scorns your profligate purchases, your fleeting tokens of consumption. Though, in fact, it's for sale: $35,000 for a bird made entirely of "old junk," according to Twist's manager, Cullen Tavelli, noting that such recycling of materials is Sewell's "signature." Smaller, cheaper items by Sewell are for sale inside, but the penguin hasn't gotten any offers in the six years it's stood there. And should a buyer appear, what would he or she get for that 35 grand? Old metal signs and thermometers, tin plates and clothing irons, an espresso maker, cake tins and threshold strips, golf-club heads, springs and bike parts, rulers and stereo faceplates—anything, in short, that would stick to a magnet. The entire ferrous conglomeration looks like a robot that waddled out of the dump, then lost battery power. It has a dignified aspect, like the stone faces of Easter Island, a watchful quality—as if scanning the shoreline for a companion that never returns to the rookery. And so the lonely iron emperor waits and waits, while we scurry by with our shopping bags. 

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