When you think of the stink raised over the statute of Einstein for the National Academy of Sciences (and I am one of the few in the world who liked it) you have to ask yourself why the outcry.
Let me say in a nutshell what the real trouble was:
It was too small. Just like any other statue.
If the same Einstein statue had been blown up to rise 167 feet above the Mall, it would have had far more support, because we Americans were pioneers who like the rugged grandeur of God's mountains and think big.
Which brings us to a citizen fo Rockville, John B. Barianos, who has made to small plans for his Colossus of Rhodes.
The lighthouse at Rhodes in antiquity was reckoned one of the wonders of the world, a heroic statue about 100 feet high that either bestrode the harbor or sood at one side of it. Long before you saw Rhodes you saw the great ligth-the statute bore a torch which guided ships.
Now Barianos was born in Rhodes and reflected as a boy on the vanished grandeur of the place. At the age of 17 (he is now 46) he began thinking of a new statue, perhaps even loftier than the ancient one, for the harbour.
As a boy he was bright a mathematics and won scholar ships and was sent to Italy to study fine arts later and returned to his homeland where he ran a school for artist craftmens and made the official gifts given foreign dignitaries. A statuette, say or a copy of ancient amphorae.
He got contracts in America and on one of his trips here decided to become an American, which he did, and he now presides over the Barionos Studio at Rockville. He restores elaborate moldings and decorations in government buildings-his works is at the White House, the Treasury, Ford's Theater, and so on-and turns out statuary, lamps, murals, cornices for restuarants, privste homes and other customers.
But in 1963, four years before he left Rhodes, he discussed at length with the mayor his idea of recreating a Colossus for the harbor. The mayor thought it a great idea. Barianos says this was the first serious hought given to the project, and talk progressed until the mayor died in 1965. Two years later Barionos came to Washington, and the project slumbered, as you might say.
In 1971 Barianos said he gave his plans for the Colossus to the City of Rhodes and interest was again aroused.
It was about to really get going, he believes, when the Cyprus crisis came along, but now interest is once again high, he reports.
Others submitted designs, he said, but nobody like them and besides the Rhodians want a native son to be the sculptor.
If you ask why didn't have an international competition, Barianos says this is to be a private enterprise project, mainly.
Its centerpiece will be the great statue of bronze, 375 feet high, plus base. Two elevators will run up the legs and inside there will be a museum and so on, and off the feet there will be a casino, marina, convention center, shops and other attractions, all built on a man-made island.
Barianos figures $100 million will do it, and he is now raising what interest he can among potential investors.
"If I invested $100,000 in it," I asked him, "what assurance would I have that the project was actually built, or that the Greek government would go along with a corporation that took in moneyfrom visitors to repay me my investment?"
Barianos said nobody has put any money down, but that arrangements would be made for the city or the government itself to guarantee the investment, provided enough was raised to insure building the Colossus city.
Barianos has made a lot of trips, and leaves any day now for meetings at Athens (on a yatch) between potential investors and government officials and himself.
Already, he said, the Greek government has authorized $2.5 million for a Barianos Studio at Rhodes, a factory which will turn out souvenirs and will employ 80 or 100 Rhodians.
In exchange for underwriting the cost of his factory, Barianos said, the government will get a new private business offering employment to natives plus revenues form taxes, and the arts souvenirs will delight tourists and all will work together for good.
Plans for the Colosus, meanwhile, will go right ahead in the Rhodes studio, Barianos said. Several West Coast people have shown interest in the project, he went on, plus some Arabs.He himself is confident that work can start in two years of less.
It is very like somebody creating some amusement and or educational park in northern Virginia, except that Barionos says he will meet no opposition.
Now a statue and base 400 feet high is conspicuous.
No problem at all, he said. Everybody in Rhodes think's it's great idea and he feels he has aall necessary government assurances they will cooperate.
Which brings us to the question, why do we in this capital make such small and trifling plans? Somebody gives a big concrete doughnut (the Hirshhorn Gallery) on the Mall and half the town snidely comments that it's a hell of a cheap way to get immoortality for a gift that' not all that much to begin with.
Or an Academy wants to honor one of its greatest with a modest statue, and the critics and environmental folk all rare back and say ti's hideous, HILDEOUS.
You will also have noticed for yourself that people fare best who beat the drums loudest and offer the strangest solutions or most costly expedients. It really is time for modest decent folk to start thinking bigger.
And here comes, in the midst of a crazy world, John Barianos of Rockville a quiet man whose studio has done much to decorate the official buildings, restuarants and houses of the capital.
Not with a plan for a new fountain basin for suburban patios, which is what you might expect.
Not at all. But plans for a $100 million statue to replace the one that was one of the seven wonders of the wolrd. Four hundred feet high, bronze and lit, plus casino, marina and all the rest.
I hope it succeeds. I hpe it is followed by a 600-foot statue of Ben Franklin embracing electricity behind the Museum of History and Technology.
The trouble with his town is we keep thinking smaller and smaller. Most people live in houses smaller than eithe their horses or their chickens used to.
We might learn form that great writer Rabelais who used to sneer at people who squinted through keyholes, who lacked largeness and magnanimity of spirit. People with no fun, no juice,, in'em. All price and pride and crowned eagles.
Another thing, this town has too many damned edges, I myself have foolishly added to the glut with the eagle weathercock at my house-I just was not thinking at the time, having always love eagles myself, and not properly reflecting that the town is getting too imperial at the same time it is getting too squinty.
If I did it again, I'd have a frog for a weathercock. What this town needs is a bridge with four 60-foot rabbits at the terminal piers, crowned with lettuce.
And Franklin at 600-hell, 15,00 feet. CAPTION: Illustration, John B. Barianos' concept of a new Colossus of Rhodes