Giant Letter is back with another oversized installation that might make you cry
The giant letter is back.
Giant Letter is an ongoing art project in Northeast Austin from an art collaborative, which started building these heartfelt oversized letters — accompanied by other larger-than-life objects — in 2012 as a response to the Sandy Hook shootings.
The 12-foot-tall letters are fictitious correspondence between a boy named Bobby and his mother, Lucinda, who is suffering from cancer.
Primary writer Caro d’Offay's mother died of cancer in 2003 at age 54. "The installations are designed to move the heart before the brain. It's important to us that the letters are universal to everyone," she says.
This year's front yard display — another tear-jerker built with partners Marj Wormald, Freya Reeves and Laura Gilmore — made its debut in November as part of the Austin Studio Tour and includes a large microscope and a science textbook. (The microscope first made an appearance in 2018.)
“When you lose a parent, it never goes away; that pain is always there," d'Offay told the American-Statesman in 2019 when the artists debuted a pie-themed piece. "But the one beauty about grief is that sometimes when you experience grief, it takes you back and reconnects you to that person you lost. Through that pain, you find that connection. People tell me, ‘You helped me reconnect with someone I thought I’d lost forever.’ There is nothing more special.”
D’Offay says that the pie letter was supposed to come down in January 2020, but the collective decided to keep it up well into the year, in part because it provided some comfort for people during the pandemic. They asked visitors to wear masks and stay in the car, if needed, when viewing the work.
"Practicing social distancing does not mean you can’t share moments of heart and spirit," they wrote to fans.
The pie letter came down in October just in time for the microscope letter to go up for the mostly virtual studio tour.
The 2020 installation is built around the Bobby character's interest in science and the solar system. "Hey Mom! Something epic was in my microscope tonight. It looked like a tiny Earth! I imagined somebody waving up at me through its clouds. You know how our hearts get all gooey for each other even if we aren’t hugging or in the same room? It was like that," this year's letter says. "Like this tiny cell was feeling my heart and reacting to me."
D'Offay says they weren't sure how the science-themed installation would be received in a year when scientists and scientific principles have been under attack, but "what we are finding is that readers are moved regardless of that interest in science," she says. "What’s most important to us is not an individual’s ability to understand the concepts, as much as their willingness to feel the emotions behind the story."
People who stop by to see the installation can write their own notes to Bobby to drop in the onsite mailbox or via the website (giantletter.com/get-in-touch). This year's mailbox letters have been particularly moving, d'Offay says: "They are each amazing little flowers. Some more complex than others. They are our form of heart currency."
D’Offay says this year's letter will be up for "for several months, as long as it stands up to the elements and the neighbors are enjoying it."
You can see the piece and read the letter in the 1300 block of Broadmoor Drive, or you can read the letter and see photos at giantletter.com. If you go, look for the puns the artists included in the author (Avery Baudy, a play on everybody) and the name of the microscope and forward author (Asabov and A. Sobelow, like as above and as below).
In closing, Bobby writes in the new letter:
"Mom, what if our solar system and all the stars are just super tiny cells inside a friendly giant’s head? And what if we can help her stay in remission just by sharing our heart with her? I know I can’t hug the giant universe or hug a tiny cell, but you know what they say about if you love something? I’m gonna take this cell back outside to its puddle and set it free."