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Sculptor Peter Helzer‘s Parade of Animals at the state capitol in Salem surprised and pleased me when we walked by on a visit with family last month. I had seen pictures but hadn’t been in its presence.

Anyone who’s ever been confronted with an original famous work of art after years of seeing reproductions will know this feeling. Vincent van Gogh’s Irises have been reproduced endlessly on card stock and even silk scarves and dish towels, but to be in the presence of the actual painting itself at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is to realize you haven’t really understood the vibrant beauty of the thing before.

And this seems even more true of sculpture, which offers the fine three-dimensional experience seeing it from all sides. Better still, outside rather than roped off in a museum you can touch the cool metal and feel the fine shapes.

I loved the little details, specifically the glasses on the horn (perhaps a French horn?). Loved seeing the alligator, its eyes cast upwards where a crow (raven?) sits on its head playing a tiny violin. You catch a glimpse only in a picture. You feel the piece in its presence.