You could say he's the West of the Best.
He's an Indian and he stares from the rooftop of the Best Products showroom at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. He measures 26 feet elbow to elbow. If he stood up, which he doesn't have the body for, he'd be 70 feet tall.
Yesterday, his creator, Washington sculptor Paul DiPasquale, and the Best folks threw a parking lot powwow to celebrate his coming out.
His name is Connecticut.
"It's really a process name," DiPasquale said. "I was looking for a title and I knew it had to be an Indian name. I researched it and Connecticut means 'Beside the tidal flow.' I interpret that to mean commuter traffic. The truth is no matter where the piece goes it'll be by commuter traffic."
Customers were saying they could see the Indian from Rte. 270.
And it's been a long road getting there. Two years ago DiPasquale, a former furniture designer, woodworker and teacher who has a background in architecture, found a site for his vision. It was at Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue NW.
Working under the assumption that Connecticut, who's made of wood covered with a bubbly foam and hardened with a coat of epoxy and weatherproof Fiberglas, would live there on completion, DiPasquale spent most of his time and all of his money creating him. He sold etchings of the Indian at $225 to finance the venture.
Then a store owner disapproved and Connecticut was homeless. DiPasquale tried the Best store in Fairfax, but the zoning board said it would violate an ordinance against rooftop signs.
Finally, after making an agreement with Best that the store would provide the installation, DiPasquale found his showcase. For the next three months, the Indian will stay atop the Best building to see how he holds up. Best has insured him for $1 million. ("Just in case a hand drops off and hits someone on the head or something," said Edwin Slipek Jr., an assistant vice president for Best.) Best then has an option to buy.
And, no, said Slipek, it's not a sales gimmick.
"It might scare away business," said Slipek, who was wearing a purple shirt and multicolored tie. "I don't know if people are used to a ferocious Indian crawling over a prefabricated wall."
Like any good art unveiling, a big sheet was removed from Connecticut's face as about 100 people sweltered on the blacktop. Many were friends or neighbors of the sculptor.
Others just came to shop.
"I think it's unbelievable," said Dan Harris, owner of The Comedy Cafe, who had brought his 5-year-old son with him to shop. "Why do I like it? 'Cause it doesn't belong there? What's the significance?"
"That's a good question," DiPasquale said as he put on a straw hat to help fight the sun. The hat didn't seem to help, so he suggested going into the Best Products showroom to cool off and explain his Indian.
Once inside the store, DiPasquale offered his questioner a seat by him on a sample swinging bench--which promptly started to collapse. He moved to the patio furniture department.
"My intent is that it gets people to ask questions--what is it? What does it mean? It's also something Americans can relate to."
Outside, one woman stood by her car, guarding some wood sticking out of the trunk while her husband ran inside. "I don't understand it. I was just standing here trying to figure it out. I'm not sure what it adds to a discount house."
Best has brought art to eight of its 190 stores, according to Slipek. Most of those were done by SITE Inc., a New York-based architectural and environmental design firm.
"We've done a number of projects that have challenged the way people think about design. Our buildings are so plain and so functional, so low-tech or no tech, that they lend themselves to this kind of thing.
"When Paul came to us with the idea, I thought it'd just look great up there," Slipek said. "Who knows? Connecticut might just pop up in our Huntington, West Virginia, store or Santa Ana, California."