Sunday, August 21, 2011


Pince-nez: No Prescription Required

In 1923, sculptor Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to immortalize the greatest American presidents in portraits every bit as imposing as the long-vanished wonder, the Colossus of Rhodes.  His canvas was an entire South Dakota mountainside.  Along with George Washington, father of the country; Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence; and Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator and reuniter, Borghum insisted on portraying Theodore Roosevelt, who joined the seas.

In the site he selected for what qualifies as the United States' magnum opus, Mount Rushmore, is a 5,725-foot uplift composed of fine-grained Precambrian granite.  When Borglum died in 1941 of a brain hemorrhage, he'd barely begun work on the presidential torsos. But the faces were all indelibly carved in stone; he lived to see the visage of his personal hero, Teddy Roosevelt, officially dedicated in 1939

He'd even rendered Roosevelt's trademark pince-nez in rock --- a rock formed 1.5 billion years ago, among the most resistant on the continent. According to geologists, Mount Rushmore's granite erodes one inch every 10,000 years.  At that rate, barring asteroid collision or a particularly violent earthquake in this seismically stable center of the continent, at least vestiges of Roosevelt's 60-foot likeness, memorializing his Canal, will be around for the next 7.2 million years.

. . . Should some equally ingenious. confounding, lyrical, and conflicted species appear on Earth in our aftermath, they may still find T.R.'s fierce, shrewd gaze fixed intently upon them.
(p. 181+)

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman

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