Doug Thielscher, ‘When Monkeys Fly’, 2016, The McLoughlin Gallery
Doug Thielscher, ‘When Monkeys Fly’, 2016, The McLoughlin Gallery

Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900. It is packed with symbolism although Frank Baum never explicitly acknowledged this. The deadly poppy field through which Dorothy and her entourage ran and almost fell asleep in, represented the dangers of apathy and complacency and how these things can prevent one from achieving their goal. At that time Baum wrote the book the United States was on the gold standard, represented by the yellow brick road leading to power, Oz, which was an abbreviation for gold. The Cowardly Lion was said to be William Jennings Bryant, a presidential candidate in 1896. He supported a silver standard to enable cash-strapped farmers and small businessmen to more easily participate in the economy. Dorothy’s shoes were originally silver in the book, representing this Populist push for a silver standard. (Dorothy’s shoes became the ruby slippers in the 1939 film because Technicolor had just been invented and Hollywood felt that red instead of silver would make the most of this new technology.) Thielscher carved the ruby slipper tipped over on its side to represent the failure of the “Silverites” to achieve a silver standard. But in a larger sense, it represents the failure of the US economy to benefit everybody. This sculpture was carved from a single stone with the yellow band existing between layers of red travertine.