Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, 1969-1974

by Jennifer W. Leung

Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929; B.A. 1950)
Location: Morse College Courtyard

Swedish-born conceptual artist Claes Oldenburg began proposing large-scale sculptures of everyday objects in the 1960s in the spirit of Andy Warhol’s tongue-in-cheek pop art tributes to American consumer culture. Amidst nationwide free speech and antiwar protests, a group of Yale School of Architecture students and faculty, dubbing themselves the Colossal Keepsake Corporation of Connecticut, envisioned the creation of one of these monuments on campus as a revolutionary aesthetic and political statement. A rally celebrated the Lipstick’s first installation on Beinecke Plaza in 1969, where its aggressive presence disrupted the public space. Intended as a platform for public speakers, the sculpture was made of inexpensive materials: plywood tracks and a red vinyl balloon tip, meant to be inflated for visibility. Vandalism and deterioration led to the work’s removal; it was ultimately refurbished in cor-ten steel, aluminum, and fiberglass and installed at Morse College in 1974. Gift of the Colossal Keepsake Corporation, 1974


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