Cyclorama’s secrets yet to be revealed!
When socialite, civic activist and world traveler Eleanor Massey Bridges was commissioned to create a painted installation for the main lobby of the Brown-Marx Tower at Birmingham’s “heaviest corner on Earth”, she was nearing the end of her life — a life that spanned most of the city’s history.
The resulting work is a massive and complexly-organized collage of images from the city’s cultural and technological history. From the Muskogean brave on his chocolate palomino it circles through time to the microcellular manipulations of Southern Research Institute, with every roaring furnace, quivering harp string, glittering ball gown and fluttering flag in between. Surely Bridges intended for her masterpiece to convey a message to the future, to surpass the sum of its myriad parts. But the key to unraveling the mystery has, so far as anyone can tell, been lost.
The great cyclorama was left unfinished and was never installed at the site for which it was painstakingly designed. The ghostly penciled image of Brother Bryan hovers over a cluster of church towers on one side. Phantom lines converge into an unidentifiable web on the other. And, staring mutely out at the viewer—taunting us perhaps—sits the infant Vulcan in his apron, rosy cheeked, but sad-eyed, his hammer laid to rest beside his chubby feet.
What is the secret of the cyclorama? What of the oryx? …the haunted mansion? …the formula for mass-energy exchange? …the caduceus? What of the worker astride the globe? …of the lithe Elektra? …the aviator? …the obelisk? …the tolling bell? And where does the white rabbit lead us? The Cyclorama is now permanently displayed at the Birmingham History Center. Come see it yourself and try to solve the mystery.