Heads of State

David Adickes Gets a Foreboding New York Times Magazine Shout Out

The publication calls some of the artist's crumbling sculptures “a guided tour through the ruins of America’s democracy.”

By Morgan Kinney September 27, 2019

Legendary Houston artist David Adickes has been chiseling away at the face of presidential history for decades, carving umpteen busts of Unites States and Texan leaders. Houston should recognize both Mount Rush Hour and the 67-foot, cement-and-steel statue of Sam Houston waving to cars headed north on I-45. This weekend's issue of The New York Times Magazine features the discarded Adickes remnants of a former tourist trap called President's Park.

Adickes contributed the sculptures in 2004 to the $10 million Williamsburg, Virginia, attraction. It was doomed from the start—too far from any hotels or attractions to attract sufficient visitors. President's Park went belly up in 2010, and the owner transported the 42 presidential busts to his nearby farm where they've rotted away ever since.

Staff writer Mark Leibovich and photographer Hannah Price ventured to the graveyard as part of the magazine's annual "Voyages" issue that seeks to capture "photographic dispatches from the extremities of the Earth." The Adickes sculptures, it seems, serve as a visual metaphor for the extreme situation facing our country's politics. As Leibovich writes:

Arranged in rows amid the weeds and wildflowers and overgrown grass, there were the presidents. They loomed grand and vulnerable, stately and a bit sad. I kept stepping back to view them all together, as a stalwart institution that has seen better days.

The other explorers [on the group tour] scattered, taking selfies, noting the sideburns on John Quincy Adams. “I think the fat one back there is Martin Van Buren,” I heard someone say. Wandering around, I could not help wondering what it was like here at night when the flesh-and-bloods like me had gone. I imagined the concrete presidents reminiscing, murmuring about the decaying state of themselves, and of things.

Heavy stuff! Read the whole package here.

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