It takes a truly special item to break into popular culture, especially in a world so full of sheer beauty, both natural and humanmade. This item has been immortalized in song and fable and even a few jokes. It is in a place where people of all ages can enjoy a spectacle so universal that the meaning could never be inhibited by something as petty as language or social standing--a place where people flock from all corners of this fine country, leaving behind their local art museums and parks and all the other wonders in all the states of this fine union. The raw, majestic grace of nature and the brilliant expression of the human emotion cannot sidetrack these proud people from their destination.
But the item will not be found in an ornate building. There is no need for spectacular housing for this particular work of art; it is in a simple place with a simple message--a message of perseverance and hardship, for this was no easy task, but a higher calling to do something great that drove the magnificent people who contributed so much to the vision of one enlightened soul.
In 1954, a simple farmer with no special training in any field of the arts responded to a dream that came not only from his mind but also from somewhere deep within. He had a primordial need to express himself through whatever medium lay at hand. This man started something that would be taken up by his family and community, a grand legacy that will no doubt last through the ages to join the ranks of the other great artworks of our illustrious history.
Some may ask how you could compare this to the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa. I maintain it is truly a standout among greats. But how could I describe anything of this scope and magnitude without you being there to see it? How can I convey the graceful geometric patterns of the lines, the subtle discrepancies of color, the gentle sweeping curves of something like this? The full force of the entire experience as you step back and drink it in with your eyes will take your breath away. It is a wonder done justice only by the human eye and an open soul.
This jewel among the confusing melee of half-rate workmanship and uninspired carbon copies of what has come before is not funded by any organization; there are no wealthy backers or government grants. It survives solely on the generosity of the community and the knowledge that what has been done will contribute to countless generations to come. It stands as a testament both to the people who came and those who devoted a part of themselves to something beyond their grasp. It is alone on a parcel of land that has nothing to offer but that which draws the masses to it. And although it is officially complete, there is a sound belief, among those have seen it, that in a time of great crisis there would be an outpouring of support for this national--nay, world treasure that the proud state of Minnesota is blessed to hold.
I speak, of course, of The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.
There is a saying that "You may come for the world's largest mall, but you stay for the world's largest ball." I made my first trip there in 1987, the year of my sister's birth. I may have been only four, but I knew an object of great reverence when I saw one. Now, every time my family ventures into the north to one of our favorite vacation spots, I rest assured that I will be able to pay my respect to that huge mass of fibers.
I have never missed a chance to see my most beloved piece of art. It is a prime example of the way a departure from the norm can drive something "underground," which restricts the audience it can be exposed to (either that or they can't move it). And it is a major tourist draw. When I've been there I've met people from all over, literally from every corner of the country. I am not fully kidding when I compare it to "great works of art," because it symbolizes a great community act and a dream.
A ball of twine can be every bit as worthy as a painting or sculpture. It may be just string, but it took an artist to arrange its colors (there are colored twines). Just because that's what he had to work with does not demean its meaning and I doubt it would have been finished by so many if it was in a different medium. And I respect the work and pride these people have in it. It was begun during hard times, and it gave the area something to come together over after the artist's death. They honestly love that thing because it was a big thing for a little town to achieve, and they don't take crap from anybody about it. And strangely enough, this is no hokey tourist attraction; it is dignified; you cannot buy little twine keychains.
I stand by my conviction that The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota is just as much art as a painting of a soup can or barely intelligible, geometrically scrambled people (you know who I'm talking to, Picasso). Strange as it may sound, it is my favorite museum, and I suggest going to see it if you're in the area.
Clint Coolidge is a high school student in Lakewood, Colorado, who writes primarily for his English class. He describes his writing as "long-winded, rambling, and rather pointless." [I didn't think so--ed.] The above piece was a mock college admissions essay on art.