You Better Not Cry

I usually try to not make my pieces about urban decay because it can be such an easy target, but sometimes how can it not be about urban decay?!

 

You Better Not Cry.
This vinyl façade, covering the dilapidated shell of a burned-out building, was originally installed by the artist in late November, purposefully timed to coincide with the nearby Polar Express train ride at St. Louis’ Union Station. The surrounding area, once a grand hub of commerce and industry, is now relegated to the occasional convention, a nondescript and semi-vacant office-park, and sporadic novelty use of its once-mighty rail system. When the sign was initially put in place, by design it blended into the Polar Express experience, serving the utilitarian purpose of hiding urban decay from the innocent eyes of children who were taking an abbreviated train ride to see “Santa Claus” at the “North Pole”.

Now that the days have warmed, this sign, so poorly masking the crumbling structure it rests upon, reminds us of the moment we relinquished the fantasies of our own naiive youths. The fanciful unreality of a childhood wish contrasts starkly with the reality the viewer now faces, offering a sort of tragi-comic tableau. As rational adults we know that the North Pole and the mythical “Santa Claus” are not six miles away, and yet the sign implores to us that we are in the “real world”. In this piece, Santa Claus represents both the lies others tell us, as well as the lies we tell ourselves. Great things are just around the corner — only six “real world” miles by train.

As children age they learn that life is not as simple or perhaps as hopeful as it may seem. The rosy-cheeked visage of a jolly fat man is ultimately replaced in our minds with the image of parents struggling to make ends meet. Santa isn’t real. The North Pole is not six miles away. Union Station and the area around it are husks of their former glory. But, just for a brief moment this piece begs us, with a crooked smile, for us to fool ourselves, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.