Silver crescent moons surround the wooden carousel built by Alice Aycock at 12th and G streets NW. Yesterday, she sat beside the flames at the foot of her high tower. "I want my art to be as fluid and fantastical as my grandmother's mind," she said. "Now that she's 100, she voyages in time.
"One minute she believes it is 30 years ago, the next it is tommorrow. She sometimes knows it's me. Then I become her sister, or the daughter that she never had. Her life is fueled by dreams."
So is Alice Aycock's large, odd outdoor sculpture, called "The Game of Fliers." It resembles nothing half so much as a half-completed theatre set for which the viewer must compose his own mysterious play.
It was commissioned by the Washington Project for the Arts, as was its predecessor at the location -- "The Biggest Cowboy Boots in the World" by Texan Bob Wade. Alice Aycock's sculpture tells tales even taller.
It might look like an abstract work, but its flames are real flames, as are the pigeons, red bricks and orange mud, trenches and towers. Aycock's "Game of Fliers" is a mental game with shifting rules: The player must set his mind adrift, and no two players play it in exactly the same way.
The props she has constructed imply stage directions. If one had to list the shifting scenes that they suggest, one might start with these:
A battleground from World War I, treeless, trenched and blasted. A Victorian mineshaft, perhaps worked by gnomes. A medieval carnival. A Chimney. A horse.
"The horse I had in mind," said Aycock, "was the one that Eunice Winkless rode when she jumped into the sea. Eunice Winkless was a Victorian lady who built a tall wood tower. Her horse would climb up to the top and then, with Eunice on its back, leap into the water. That's her tower over there."
The carousel is easier -- it looks much like a carousel. The mine is easy, too: It comes complete with cables, platforms, pulleys. Kerosene-soaked rags provide the flame and smoke that, rising from the narrow trenches in the orange mud, conjure World War I. Aycock's "Game of Fliers" seems part factory, part fair-ground, part pigeon coop, part war. It is a work with many meanings that proliferate and intertwine, that sometimes complement and sometimes contradict each other. It is nice to look at, too.
Aycock's sculpture might be read as a work of allegorical architecture, or as a response to the half-new, half-decaying downtown of this city, or perhaps as a playground for the mind. Were it not enclosed by a chain link metal fence, it would work as well as a playground for the body, for its towers could be climbed, its heavy wheels spin, its carousel does turn.
Aycock, a New Yorker, is 33 years old. She was born in Harrisburg, Pa. ("near Three Mile Island"). Her father Jesse N. Aycock, runs Aycock Inc., a construction firm which, for years, has been supplying some of the tunnels and the mazes underground that Alice Aycock builds. A dozen local firms also contributed moneys and materials for the "The Game of Fliers."
A party for the work will be held this afternoon. Joan Mondale is scheduled to attend, as are representatives of the National Endowment for the Arts, the D.C. Commission for the Arts and Hunanities and local firms who have helped to pay for the $10,000 project.
"The Game of Fliers" will remain on view through March. "I hoped to get a real goat to place atop the carousel," said Aycock, "but I couldn't find one. You'll just have to imagine that the goat is there."