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Ask an expert - BETH GREIFENKAMP, ART ENTHUSIAST

 

Last updated 4/7/2021 at 5:19pm | View PDF

Jim Slonoff

Beth Greifenkamp's big purple lawn ornament is a landmark, a source of curiosity and a photo opp for neighbors and passersby. But its main purpose is to make people smile. (Jim Slonoff photo)

Why is that dinosaur in your front lawn?

Whether it's referred to as the big purple dinosaur, Madame Butterfly or the beastie, the whimsical sculpture that adorns the front lawn of Beth Greifenkamp's Hinsdale home is known to all who have the pleasure of passing by.

"It's literally a landmark," said Greifenkamp, who refers to the winged creature as "the beastie." Greifenkamp had long admired the work of Milwaukee artist Dennis Pearson when he teamed up with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra back in 2002 for a fundraiser that involved the sale of decorated "beasties." Greifenkamp was determined to make one her own, and after several failed auction bids, the purple creature became hers.

Decorated in the theme of "Madame Butterfly," the 5-foot-tall sculpture proved to be the perfect addition to the perennial garden at Greifenkamp's Wisconsin home.

"I'd look at her outside the kitchen window," she said.

Since then her beloved beastie has made its way to California, where she claimed most of the room on Greifenkamp's "teeny tiny little patio," and then to Hinsdale, where the violet-hued work of art caught the eye of passersby on Justina for several years before making her way to her current home on Madison.

It wasn't long after Greifenkamp moved that she was reminded just how iconic the beastie had become. While at work, she received a call from the Hinsdale Police Department. Unaware that Greifenkamp had moved across town, a patrol officer noticed the creature was missing from her usual place on Justina and called to make sure she hadn't fallen into the wrong hands.

Greifenkamp said that call reaffirmed her love of the quiet suburb she calls home - and that town's love for her oversized lawn ornament.

"I get questions about her all the time," said Greifenkamp. She receives notes in her mailbox inquiring about the sculpture, and curious passersby have been known to knock on her door from time to time. This winter, as Greifenkamp shoveled her way out of a snowstorm, a woman stopped and got out of her car. Greifenkamp assumed she was there to complain about her car being parked in the street, but the nature of her visit was complimentary. She simply stopped to tell Greifenkamp that the creature makes her smile.

Greifenkamp said she hopes her beloved art acquisition has that effect on all who pass by.

The beastie often reflects what is going on in the world and in Greifenkamp's own life. Situated just blocks from Hinsdale Central High School, the beastie dons her Red Devils fan attire before big games. And when Greifenkamp's son suffered a football injury that required the use of crutches, the beastie got crutches, too.

"We dress her up for Halloween," Greifenkamp said, and she is festooned with a wreath at Christmastime.

The whimsical beastie is just a preview of the home's interior, where Greifenkamp said lots of color and a variety of textures reflect her character.

"I have equally quirky art inside my house," she said.

Midwest winters have been tough on the beastie. But Greifenkamp said a fresh coat of paint will have her ready for another busy summer of admirers, picture takers and curious passersby.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]

 
 

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