Unveiling the Totem

The Totem prior to move.
Robert Winslow carving on-site at McDonald’s U.
The artist with McDonald’s curators.

Have you driven by the Museum and noticed construction on the southeast corner? We are making space for a mega-sculpture by artist Robert Winslow called “Totem.” The sculpture was donated to the Museum by John Paul DeJoria, new owner of the (old) McDonald’s University property across the street, where the sculpture has stood for nearly 20 years.

This new-to-us carving is made of black granite, mined in Zimbabwe, Africa and shipped from Montreal, Canada to Oak Brook, Illinois. The uncarved quarried block was 27 tons, 20 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. Finding this block of stone was a stroke of luck for Winslow – there were many failed attempts at locating the perfect rock before this one was discovered. The carving was commissioned by Fred Turner, former CEO of McDonald’s Corporation. Winslow carved the piece in place on the McDonald’s property over the course of 3 and a half summers. It was finished in 2002. Because it was carved on-site, Winslow was forced to contend with the weather, only carving when the temperature was above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Winslow’s artist statement: “The sculpture was carved on the McDonald’s property, close to Salt Creek. It was carved in the area used for landscaping needs for the property. In the summer, the only time the sculpture could be worked on, there were many visitors; snakes, lizards, snapping turtles, bumblebees, wasps, cicadas, strangely, and thankfully, not many mosquitoes. I felt the sculpture, in some ways, looked like a riverbed, with water falling down the form. The environment had influence in unconscious ways perhaps. I definitely wanted to express the natural feeling of the McDonald’s campus. As a child my father took the family camping in the High Sierras every summer. I would climb high in the mountains, sometimes gone for the day. Nature has always been an influence in my work. Originally the form was referred to as ‘water falling’. Architecture friends strongly objected, saying the name resembled Wright’s “Falling Water” house. Having studied architecture in college, it was difficult to disagree with them. Decided “Totem” was appropriate, as various aspects of history, McDonald’s, and the creatures present when carving, were represented, however abstractly, in the sculpture.”

The Totem sculpture is a wonderful addition to the Museum’s landscape, adding to the beauty and appreciation of hard stone carving. The Totem’s foundation, move and path from the patio will be completed this summer.