For better or worse, the city of Baltimore contains many unique works of art in public places. Some pieces ignite controversy while others, no matter how odd they may appear, inspire. These are the must-sees when it comes to bizarre artwork right here in Baltimore.
Amtrak Penn Station
1500 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, Md. 21201
Love it or hate it, the “Male/Female” statue, located in front plaza of Amtrak’s Penn Station, is certainly bizarre. Commissioned by the city of Baltimore in 2004, sculptor Jonathan Borofsky came up with the idea for this 52-foot statue made of aluminum. The giant shows the outline of a man intersecting an outline of a woman, connected by a round center near the heart, and is illuminated with LED lights at night. Noted for its striking visual difference to the historic train station building, this shiny, modern work of art has been a heated topic of conversation for years, evoking thoughts of humanity, time, gender, love and identity among many.
Giant Golden Hand
American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway
Baltimore, Md. 21230
Price: $9.95 to 15.95 museum admission
An otherwise ordinary building is bedecked with an 11-foot statue of a giant golden hand, reaching out with pinched fingers in “Giant Golden Hand.” If it was any building but the American Visionary Art Museum, passers-by might find the sight odd. This work by Adam Kurtzman was put in place in 2005 as part of the annual outdoor film festival, Flicks from the Hill, which allows the public free showings of movies and has since run every July and August. The hand plays an important role as it appears as if it is holding up the 32-foot screen used to show the movies. A natural amphitheater exists between the screen and the east side of Federal Hill, which can comfortably seat 1,000 people. While there, check out the museum’s other odd outdoor art as part of its “Bling Universe,” from the “Cosmic Galaxy Egg” to the “Gallery-A-Go-Go Bus.”
Frederick Douglass’ Head
Frederick Douglass-Issac Myers Maritime Park
1417 Thames St.
Baltimore, Md. 21231
(410) 685-0295 ext. 252
Price: $2 to $8 museum admission
Of all of the statues depicting famous people in Baltimore, there is one that certainly stands out (without feet, no less). While the Frederick Douglass statue is in its entirety at Morgan State University, there is something different about the dedication at the southernmost tip in Fells Point, by the very docks where the Civil Rights leader once worked in the early 1800s. He appears incomplete as it is a bust comprised of only his head with no neck or shoulders. Artist Marc Andre Robinson, who earned a masters of fine arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art, created and installed the piece in 2006. Though it is magnificent and true to Douglass’ likeness, the artistic choice is inevitably odd.
Miracle on 34th Street
34th St. and Chestnut Ave.
Baltimore, Md. 21211
With bicycle-tire snowmen, a hubcap Christmas tree, and enough holiday lights keep the Grinches at the electric company very happy, this small block in Hampden transforms into a masterpiece of Christmas overload year after year. This tradition has become integrated into the neighborhood identity as unique odds and ends are highlighted to keep the scene visually interesting and familiar, including nods to Natty Boh and Maryland crabs. Don’t miss the miracle that begins Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s, when the block conducts its very own ball drop.
102 W. 36th St.
Baltimore, Md. 21211
Unlike the Miracle on 34th, this bizarre public art piece in Hampden is available to view year round. Visitors to 36th Street, fondly called “the Avenue” by locals, might notice a huge pink flamingo attached to a building’s fire escape, just above the Cafe Hon restaurant, which recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary. Even the mere site of the bird invokes controversy; along with the restaurant owner, Denise Whiting’s attempt to copyright the word “hon,” the flamingo was once threatened to be taken down permanently due to lack of a permit. Originally made of wire and cloth, the new version is made of fiberglass and with the classy addition of a string of pearls.
Related: Baltimore Gets Its “Hon” Back
Pam Smith graduated from Penn State with a B.A. in English and a passion for writing. Her adaptive nature led her to work in the scientific, energy supply, and business industries while writing on a multitude of topics for various online media. Pam currently resides in Baltimore County. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.