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Art Review: 'Millie' And 'Dreamers Awake' Greet Museum Visitors In Different Ways

Tom Otterness is a New York-based artist from Wichita who has two notable sculptures in town. His Dreamers Awake stands in front of the Wichita Art Museum, and Millipede, or “Millie” as she is lovingly referred to, is nestled in front of the Ulrich Museum on WSU’s campus.

Credit Nicollette Engels / KMUW
Tom Otterness' "Millipede" (nicknamed Millie) sits just south of the Ulrich Museum entrance.

Both sculptures are the first works that greet visitors as they arrive at each site. Despite being from the same artist, though, the sculptures have a stark contrast in tone. The Millipede wears shoes, alternating high heels and loafers, symbolizing men and women working together – with the help of a small character nudging Millie in the right direction.

WAM’s Dreamers Awake is an ominous, more contemplative work. A 15-foot nude female figure is visible from the street. She is holding a sickle in an arm, stretched stiffly perpendicular to her weighty body.

As visitors approach on foot – which is a must – they will find a dismembered second figure with a fallen hammer. Arms, hands, legs, head and heart lie in the courtyard while tiny thug-like figures are carting off a footprint and guarding coins. The socialist “dreamers” seem to be waking to a brutal reality with the carrion of capitalism conducting their unsavory business.

The politically charged and somewhat violent work has always set me on edge – in a good way – but it is not what I would consider a warm welcome. Thankfully, the Wichita Art Museum has proposed an ambitious re-design of their public art spaces. I hope Dreamers Awake will find a more suitable context and retire from being the museum’s greeter.