Tortured Turtles: The statues of Constitution Park

By Kaitlin Johnson

Sun Star Contributor

Sculptures in Constitution Park. Photo by Allan Spangler.

Students pass them every day. The four bronze figures with jutting twisted limbs are fondly referred to by students as “Turtle Sex Park.”

“You can’t help but notice them,” said Mary Goodwin, an art history professor. “They look like they’re having a meltdown.”

The turtles scattered in Constitution Park shock sensibility with their anguished expressions and lulling tongues. One turtle holds its head in elongated arms while another stretches at broken angles while its twisted mouth opens to expose a long metal tongue. “Turtles” is open to be interpreted differently by anyone who pauses to admire it.

“My understanding is the artist wants them to be a statement about creativity,” Goodwin said.

Llian Breen, a senior art minor, sees the sculptures differently. To him, the figures are not turtles at all.

“It always reminded me of images of hell. With the images of arms reaching out of the dirt,” Breen said.

The sculptures were commissioned in 1982 in an effort to transform Constitution Park for the university’s 60th anniversary. Sculpted by Elizabeth Biesiot, the turtles are cast bronze figures, each measuring two feet long.

The material used is significant, said Goodwin. Bronze is an expensive, difficult material to work with. It requires skill and instruction to know how to work.

“Traditionally, bronze sculptures are ennobling. It’s unusual to see these dreamy and surreal turtles in such old fashioned material,” Goodwin said.

Others, such as freshman Codi Burk, question the sculptures’ placement in such a prominent spot on campus.

“It’s out of place,” she said.  “There should be polar bears or something for Nanooks. Not turtles.”

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