Take a pleasant stroll through the gardens of Dallas’s five-star Joule Hotel, and you will quickly perambulate upon a very odd sight: a 30-foot-tall eyeball that is just sort of hanging out. It might look like it just popped out of the ocular socket of a colossus the size of the Burj Khalifa, but in actuality, it’s a sculpture, created by Chicago-based multimedia artist Tony Tasset. But how did it end up in downtown Dallas?
Blame the Joule. Located a stone’s throw from Dallas’s arts district, the Joule Hotel has long been known for its expansive collection of original artworks, including works by Andy Warhol, Tony Cragg, Adam Fuss, and Richard Phillips. In fact, the Joule’s art collection has gotten so large, that it’s spilled over across the street, into a sculpture garden co-sponsored by the Nasher Sculpture Center. Tasset’s The Eye is the first sculpture the Joule has installed in the garden. “They have great taste, what can I say?” the artist quips.
The Eye isn’t a new sculpture: in fact, working from a photo of his own eyeball, Tasset created his enormous orb back in 2007. Working with a company that specialized in creating fiberglass figures for roadside attractions, Tasset made The Eye for display as part of a temporary exhibition in Chicago that summer. After that, the giant eye collected dust in storage, until Headington bought it and put it on display at the Joule.
But what’s going on here? Is there really just a big eye hanging out in downtown Dallas now, or is there a more obliquely profound statement behind the three story tall occulus? Nope.
“I just wanted to make something awesome,” says Tasset, who points out that it is important to him for his public works to be as widely understood as possible, as well as to totally transform the space they are in. Not only is the eye a universal icon, seen everywhere from the Masonic eye on the dollar bill to the flaming eye of an Ed Hardy tattoo, but there aren’t many spaces a gigantic, bloodshot retina can’t utterly transfigure.
More of Tasset’s art can be viewed at the Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago. As for the eye itself, if you want to see it, it’s hard to miss: just head on down to 1607 Main Street next time you’re in Dallas. “I don’t imagine it will go anywhere any time soon,” says Tasset. “It’s not exactly easy to move.”