Driving through South Minneapolis the other weekend, a friend and I noticed something strange as we crossed Lake Nokomis: a large statue of what looked to be some sort of giant reptile, in the water across the lake. We spent a few minutes debating what kind of creature it might be; apatosaur, brontosaur (and was that even an actual dinosaur?), the Loch Ness Monster, plesiosaur…eventually our conversation shifted, but my friend did some research later in the week and sent me this link.
Apparently it’s something of an art project: A joint venture between a local artist and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “Minne” is a fantastical lake monster, who spends time in various lakes around Minneapolis during the summer, and people can then visit the website to share their experiences seeing her, and write stories about her. Cute, no?
Well, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed when I learned she wasn’t actually a dinosaur. I know. Grumpy, jaded, no-good, meanie skeptic needs to get a sense of humor, and maybe some whimsy. But how bloody cool would it be if it was a realistic life-size model of a plesiosaur? The artist has interesting ideas about taking art outside the confines of art museums. Why not add a little bit of science to the mix?
I’m not going to get up on my high horse and argue that fantasy has no place in the public imagination. I definitely appreciate this as a public art project. But I can’t help lamenting the absent possibilities. As it is now, the project is about wonder. It is about injecting a little bit of magic into the mundane; a wonderful goal, in my opinion. But why use a fantasy creature? Why not use something that has actually existed, and allow people to imagine the real world, transported tens of million of years into the past? I just don’t see any need for mystery mongering when we have such a rich natural history to draw upon.
Obviously, I’m biased. To me, the awesomeness of this world far surpasses anything that can be made up. So for me, “Minne” is more a cheesy gimmick than an inspiration. If that makes me a curmudgeon, well, I guess I’m okay with that.