Butter Bust of Obama Takes to Chicago Streets

obama butter the harvest

If you see a yellow-ish sculpture of a man's head rolling through the Loop Friday afternoon, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you: It really is a bust of President Barack Obama made of butter.

The butter head stars in the latest performance art project from Industry of the Ordinary, helmed by Chicagoans-via-England Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson as a way to trigger response to pop culture and art. (Locals might remember Brooks and Wilson for the ice sculpture of the Ten Commandments they carted down Michigan Avenue in 2005 en route to the Art Institute of Chicago.)

For this project, they hired Ohio artist Bob Kling, known for his butter cow sculptures, to carve Obama's face from a mound of the unsalted emulsion. Kling worked several days in a cooler in Chicago's Fulton Market District to perfect the final product.

Why butter? Wilson said it's one of those peculiar American traditions that's perennially celebrated in the country's culture. The bust of the president, he said, aims to cause a response at "a pivotal moment" in the country less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

"The piece is, itself, not pro- or anti-Obama," Wilson said. "It seeks to provoke a reaction."

Reactions were on display starting at 12:15 p.m. as the bust was wheeled inside a "cooled, glass-fronted container" east on Lake Street and south on State Street to the Chicago Cultural Center, where it ended at the duo's exhibit on display through February.

Wilson said Industry of the Ordinary will film passersby as they encounter the bust and use them in a film called "The Harvest" to create a "portrait of a culture in transition."

As for Obama's buttery fate post-election and post-exhibit, "What happens after that, we're not quite sure," Wilson said.

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