The Sesame Street special Don’t Eat the Pictures remains one of the greatest achievements of the franchise. Not only is it a terrific moment in Sesame history, it also manages to teach a heck of a lot about art appreciation in a way that can be absorbed by both preschoolers and older fans.
It’s also a must-see for any Muppet fan planning a trip to New York City. Sure, Muppets Take Manhattan is a perfect spotlight on the Big Apple, but if you’re gonna play tourist, you’re probably gonna go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And there’s no better primer for a museum visit than Don’t Eat the Pictures.
So naturally, it’s extra exciting that almost 40 years after Big Bird stayed overnight in the museum, he’s returned. This time, to the roof.
The roof of the Met is home to rotating exhibits that can stand long exposures to the elements. The latest is a giant mobile with a blue Big Bird expertly balanced on one side. The piece is titled “As Long as the Sun Lasts”, and it was created and built by artist Alex Da Corte.
Last week, a few of your ToughPigs pals took in an afternoon of art gazing (and refraining from eating any paintings) so we could see Big Bird in the flesh. Er, feathers. No… fiberglass.
Pictures don’t do this bird justice. The installation is massive, towering high above the roof of the museum. The mobile is functional, slowly rotating with the wind. And Big Bird looks phenomenal. When you get up close, you can see the detail in every feather and the texture in his beak. It’s incredible.
Of course, there’s something else that’s immediately apparent as soon as you step off that elevator: Big Bird is bright blue. It must be cold up on that roof.
Blue Big Bird raises some questions about the intention of the artist. Is it supposed to be a reference to the saddest moment in film history, the “Bluebird of Happiness” from Follow That Bird? Interestingly, this Bird still has his yellow tail (with pink highlights), just like Bird Bird in the scene from the film. The main difference being that he’s wearing a giant pair of khakis in the movie.
The other blue bird responsible for the hue is Garibaldo, Big Bird’s terrifying Brazilian counterpart from Vila Sésamo. Garibaldo wasn’t just chosen because he’s a bit of a nightmare, but because artist Alex Da Corte grew up in Brazil, and this was his Bird.
The answer, of course, is both. Follow That Bird and Vila Sésamo each play a part in the inspiration for this piece. We can be sure of this thanks to this gift shop impulse buy:
These details and more were confirmed in the souvenir book seen above, available only at the Met. The booklet features details about the piece and the inspirations for every detail, lots of great photos, an interview with the artist, and introspection about the meaning of the giant mobile.
This was how we learned that the base of the installation was inspired by Little Tykes playsets. The ladder: a mix of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting and the immovable ladder of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The moon Big Bird is sitting on may have been pulled from a Donna Summer album.
The one piece of the exhibit that couldn’t be sourced quite so easily was the one we can’t see at all. The invisible wind, slowly turning Big Bird around, somehow getting him closer and closer to the sky, but never further than his makeshift moon.
And of course, the final piece of the puzzle is us. The Sesame Street fans who traveled to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to take in some art, reminisce about one of our favorite Sesame specials, and to spy the world’s most unique bird in perpetual mid-flight. I’m sure everyone who sees this installation will love it, but there’s a special sort of appreciation when it’s folks like us, who have followed and studied and waxed poetic about Big Bird for years.
Somehow, he doesn’t seem quite so blue up there in the sky.
“As Long as the Sun Lasts” will be available to see on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art until October 31st.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com