Ann Hirsch and Robert Olson were named one of three finalist teams out of a pool of 265 applicants from 42 states and 13 countries in the Poe birthplace artwork RFP competition. Their proposal for a public artwork to commemorate Edgar Allan Poe's birthplace in Boston was comprised of two bronze figures, Poe and a mysterious female figure, atop four leaning granite pillars. The traditional commemorative form of the plinth is transformed into an ostensibly unstable configuration of leaning pillars, appropriate to Poe's revolutionary vision. The design combines traditional and contemporary forms and languages to convey the living legacy of Poe’s work.
Proposal for a Public Artwork dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, A Collaboration with Robert Olson
Familiar symbols from Poe’s writing, such as the Raven, have eclipsed his full body of work over time. Hirsch and Olson's design focuses on aspects of Poe’s writing and biography that uniquely define his connection to Boston and point to broader but less familiar themes in his work.
Poe's birth in Boston to the actress Eliza Poe, his famously entertaining public readings, especially on Federal Street where his mother once performed, and his ongoing use of dualities are included in the design: Poe is paired with an ambiguous shrouded female figure and the staged lifesize figures are elevated.
Such shrouded figures as Poe's female accompaniment appear throughout his fiction and seemed to haunt him. In his work they function as the touchstone for the moment of dissolution which was often the climax of Poe’s work. They also act as symbols of the triumph of sensation over thought which was Poe's declaration of independence from the literary establishment of Boston and which is the main theme of this design.
On the left is shown a watercolor painting of Eliza Poe by Sir Charles William Ross -1794-1860 - from the University of Texas at Austin Poe Collection