NARRATOR: This large sculpture, called The Brass Family, is one of many sculptures of circus performers Calder made apart from his miniature Circus. It is much larger than any of those elements, and its parts don’t move. In fact, in many ways it is a work about stability, and immobility. The large nude man who anchors this family is rock-solid: hugely muscular and constructed out of a heavy-gauge wire. His graceful family is more daintily constructed and more vulnerably posed—but there is little sense of physical danger. At the same time, it definitely reminds us that the circus is an entirely different world—The Brass Family doesn’t have the family structure that most of us are used to!
CAROLINESIMONDS: In those days, in the ’20s, you were—you were born into a trunk. You were born into the circus.
NARRATOR: Caroline Simonds is a clown and a former acrobat. She runs the Paris-based organization Rire-Médecin, which brings clowns to the pediatrics wards of hospitals.
CAROLINESIMONDS: You just started off by standing on your father’s shoulders when you were eighteen months old. Soon as you could walk they made you stand on your father’s shoulders and then on his head, and then they flipped you up in the air and, they caught you by your feet.