A Bust of Pallas

by Chris Bullard

 

When Gehry designed the headquarters for my silicon chip company I asked him to leave a space for a grand head, something from the Renaissance, perhaps, that would give our lobby a presence that would equal the elegance of our Saarinen furniture and match the majesty of the great expanse of windows overlooking the valley. His concept for a space to contain this effigy was a box made of tiger maple that was erected over the central entrance to our offices. It was a handsome box and I’m sure that many of our employees spent their lunchtimes discussing what wondrous work of art would eventually fill it.

Almost a year later I found in an auction catalogue exactly what I had been thinking of – a large bust of Pallas attributed to Verrocchio. The goddess of wisdom – what could be a better fit for a company committed to new ways of doing things? I purchased it at some considerable expense to the company and had it rushed to our site.

This turned out to be a disaster. I hadn’t checked the measurements. When we had it hoisted to the empty box that was to display it, I found that it exceeded the space allowed by several inches.

I immediately called on my head of research and explained the problem to him. There was, of course, much joking about consulting one head about another head, but after the repartee died down, my research head offered a plan to shrink the head to fit its display space. He explained that our computers could measure each millimeter of the head with lasers and then abrade it with precision milling equipment that would keep its proportions exactly the same while decreasing the relative size of the bust. I gave my approval at once.

Unfortunately, a mistake in calculating the ratios of the surface of the bust resulted in a head reduced to the size of a pepper shaker. Now, I had a bust, which in all aspects was exactly as the great Verrocchio had made it except greatly decreased in size. I was heartsick and could barely speak to my head of research and those picked staff members who had accompanied him to give me the bad news.

I took the tiny head with me to my office and placed it on my Nakashima desk. I could barely look at it. But then I had an epiphany. Just as my company had succeeded in shrinking certain household electronics (computers, telephones, etc.) to a more convenient and transportable size, so had I succeeded in reducing this imposing work of art to useful proportions. This was not a disaster, but a triumph.

Since then I have found that I can carry the bust in the pocket of my Armani suit and transport it with me to wherever I conduct meetings or evaluate my employees. Whenever I need an idea I can place it on my desk or merely touch its contours in my pocket and receive what I must call a jolt of inspiration. Many of my best ideas have come while I had access to my pocket Pallas and our staff psychologists have confirmed that my net creativity has increased by approximately 20%.

As for the space above the entrance to our office, I have had placed there an imposing bust of Medusa with her snake hair. To me her image represents the embodiment of competition. Those who visit our headquarters may look upon her and despair.

 

Chris Bullard is a native of Jacksonville, FL. He lives in Collingswood, NJ, and works for the federal government as an Administrative Law Judge. WordTech Editions published his first full-length book of poetry, Back, in November of 2013. Kattywompus Press published his third chapbook, Dear Leatherface, in January of 2014.

 

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