Secret Hidden Theme to the SFMOMA Sculpture Garden

August 14, 2009  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd


Dear reader,

This is Tammy. Has this ever happened to you?

I was passing a casual afternoon in the SFMOMA sculpture garden the other day, sipping a glass of fresh tap water and soaking up some much needed vitamin D in my San Francisco summer attire, when I realized that my helmet with its tundra down lining resembled the Thought Screen Helmets made famous by our friends at Stop Alien Abductions.  Thought screen helmets prevent aliens from reading your thoughts, and ultimately, from abducting the wearer. Just for fun, I toyed with “anyone” who might be listening by creating a half-thought. And then, as if in answer,  an eerie pattern to the sculptures seemed to appear—an unwritten narrative that became more and more obvious the more I gazed at the objects on display and took into account the simple fact that rooftop gardens, like tennis courts, can easily be transformed into helipads.

Was the curatorial vision describing an actual visitation? Experts have denied any such conspiracy, but I’ll let you be the judge. I give you here, the key:

Alexander Calder, Big Crinkly = The spaceship


Louise Bourgeois, The Nest = Mother alien who eats her young; equipped with sharp-toothed lower lip folded under the head


Juan Munoz, Conversation Piece, NY (1, 2 & 3) = Alien hatchlings, or larval stage (pre-nymph)

Ranjani Shettar, Me, no, not me, buy me, eat me, wear me, have me, me, no, not me = Nymph-stage shedded skin of the now teenaged hatchlings (represented under the mother’s legs)


Mario Merz, The Lens of Rotterdam = The dwelling.  Igloo in appearance, so as to ‘blend in’ (the first alien landing coordinated at points due east of the Bering Strait)


Ellsworth Kelly, Stele I = The golden calf or object of worship


Kiki Smith, Virgin Mary = Sarcophagus for captured humans


Robert Arneson, No Pain =Severed head of the decapitated human leader


Joel Shapiro, Untitled = Communications antennae; able to withstand arctic winds


Henry Moore, Large Torso Arch = Fourth dimension portal for ‘birthing’ spaceship (saves light years and is fuel efficient)


Barnett Newman, Zim Zum I = Thermal radiation jet shower and particle neutralizer


I hope this knowledge does not compromise our safety or  future privacy. As you know, They can read our thoughts, and They have ways of making us forget.

Artcast tour of the Sculpture Garden that explores all 11 works and artists thematically (more of a “sculpture as such” approach): here.

Sculpture-by-sculpture audio guide in downloadable zip and cell-phone-able tour (maybe more fun when you’re here on site): is here.


  1. Rubby Downrobbsz Says:

    Tammy is the best museo-blogger of all time. She is like if Clement Greenberg got sucked into a Bill Viola timewarp to the 30th century where he was worked over by extraterrestrial Hammacher-Schlemmer massage chairs until etc etc etc sorry bye

  2. Automne Says:

    Pure genius. Tammy’s brain forever.

  3. Wendy Says:

    This is brilliant and hilarious. I laughed all the way through it. Can you post a picture of Tammy wearing a Thought Screen Helmet please?

  4. Wendy Says:

    Finally, once again, a conspiracy theory I can get behind. It’s been a long time!

  5. Pigeon Says:

    Finally, once again, a conspiracy theory I can get behind. It’s been a long time!

  6. Wendy Says:

    That’s what I just said. Stop copying me!

  7. Pigeon Says:

    I am practicing posting like you because one day soon, I will become you.

  8. Wendy Says:

    What? What do you mean?!

  9. Pigeon Says:

    You heard me.

  10. Wendy Says:

    …wait. But if you become me, what happens to me?

  11. Wendy Says:

    …hello? are you still there?

  12. Wendy Says:

    hello? where are you? where did you go?

  13. Wendy Says:

    Where did you go? Are you . . . are you . . . already ME? And if so, where am I?

  14. Wendy Says:

    I’m frightened.

  15. twiceastammy Says:

    over here!

  16. Rachel Torrey Says:

    Regarding Ellsworth Kelly’s Stele I: This is actually an appropriated found object, it was discovered by British archaeologists in the 1900′s while digging in Panama. Kelly found it in his garage behind a rusting 1964 VW Beetle. Researchers at Harvard Extension Correspondence School (accreditation pending) have postulated it is actually 60,000 years old.

    It is also the (uncredited) inspiration for the obelisk in Kubrick’s film 2001, where it’s original context was painstakingly recreated by training angry monkeys to throw bones at it.

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