Moo Are What Moo Eat in Post Office Square Park

she's done and ready to mooooove!

the requisite Michelangelo pose

grasses, buttercups, dandelions

first coat

Zoe wants to get down

unpainted cow

cow arrives neatly wrapped

last updated: 9/04/06

Andrew Turner and I sit down to chat about "Moo Are What Moo Eat":

AT: First of all, for those who don’t know, what is the Cow Parade?

KB: The Cow Parade is the largest public art event in the world. Each year a few cities around the world host the parade. Local artists are invited to submit designs, and those who are chosen receive a life-size fiberglass cow statue to decorate. The finished cows are placed in various places around the city for the public to enjoy. At the end, the cows are auctioned off for charity.

The first cow parade was organized in Zurich as a public art project designed to promote retail and the arts around downtown Zurich. The original cow statues were created by Swiss artist Pascal Knapp. Cows are a fixture in the Swiss countryside so it made sense to choose the cow as a way to promote Swiss culture. However, the success of the event and the universal popularity it has engendered as the parade came to cities all over the world is largely due to the deep connection that people around the world have to the cow.

AT: How did you get involved in the Cow Parade?

KB: I read a posting on asking for design submissions. I had seen pictures of the cows on parade in other cities and have thought that it would be great fun to decorate a cow. I sent in my design and crossed my fingers. A few months later, after the notification deadline has well passed, and all hope of being selected faded, I received a message from the Jimmy Fund, the organizers of the Boston parade, that I’d been selected.

AT: What kind of design did you submit?

KB: My cow is decorated with a meadow design, showing the traditional bovine diet. I intentionally used different types of grasses, clover, buttercups, and dandelions to show the various plants that go into making a cow. Nowadays few cows enjoy this type of diet–most of them are fattened on corn and are even forced into cannibalism. This new diet doesn't sit well with their complex digestive system and they often get sick which requires farmers to give them copious amounts of antibiotics and other drugs. Those in turn enter our own food chain as we guzzle up our hamburgers and steaks. Chewing on a dandelion, my cow harkens back to a simpler time, bringing a piece of the countryside to the urban environment of Boston.

AT: Describe your attitude towards the cow (as a work of art itself, as a canvas for your own work, as a great hulking object that has taken over your dining room).

KB: The cow sculpture itself is very beautiful. It masterfully combines a realistic depiction of the animal with an abstraction of its bovine traits creating a platonic model. The gentle curves of the sculpture make it an exciting surface to paint. When I paint a line I can never predict where it will end up due to the undulations of the surface. I usually pat the cow on its flank before I start painting, the way I would a real cow. Needless to say, I never do this when I paint on stretched canvas.

Having a cow in one’s dining room is a surreal experience. When I come down the stairs in the morning, still groggy, I’m always a little surprised to see it there. “Oh, a cow!” I think. But the cow seems very comfortable in the house, and it makes it feel very homey. It has become a member of the family. I wonder, do you have a similar reaction to it?

AT: Yes; a very similar reaction. I pat her on the flank, on the shoulder, or on the nose. I notice I am more gentle on the nose, as if she were a real cow. Sometimes I stand there in the dining room, with my arm draped around her. I sometimes hang from the horns. I wouldn’t do that with a real cow. I noticed the last Cow Parade was in your home town of Warszawa (Warsaw). Did you get to see it?

KB: Unfortunately, I missed the cows in Warszawa. I only saw them online. However, it has made it easy to explain to my relatives who live there what I’m working on. My grandparents even sent me clippings from a newspaper showing the locations of the cows.

AT: That’s a shame. Atlanta had one in 2003 that I didn’t get to see. Have you ever got to see a Cow Parade? There was one while I was living in New York. I remember a number of yellow taxi cab cows, and some Cash Cows. There was one called Moola the Cash Cow, colorfully papered with international currency, with coinage for the horns, hooves, and eyes. She was a real beauty.

KB: I vaguely remember the New York Cow Parade when I was living there. I remember seeing some cows on the street, but I don’t remember any particular cow. I don’t think I was paying much attention to public art back then. I’m afraid I was rather an art snob.

AT: What’s with the funny names?

KB: Working on a cow for the parade gives artists the opportunity to be playful and funny. I think they also show the affection that the artists have for the cows. When I was working on my cow design submission, I noticed that a lot of cows had funny names, like Claude Mooonet, 60 Moo-nites, etc. My cow was originally called “Meadow Cow”. Then, you suggested that it should be “You are what you eat” since it was addressing the issues of how we feed cattle and the ramifications for them and the people who eat them. So I decided on “Moo are What Moo Eat” to add some more silliness. Now whenever someone asks me what my cow is, I have to say the title, and I always crack up. I like how the humor in the name makes the message more immediate to the audience.


Read the article in The Boston Globe.

Read press release issued by Spaulding & Slye, my employer and the sponsor of the cow.

Check back soon for more photos of the cow

concept drawing