Ten Figures by Sculptor James Tyler Keep Masks on in Davis Square

When I feel weary with the prospect of wearing masks in public for months to come, I can now turn to what I learned about the Davis Square statues, who have kept their masks on night and day for more than twenty years!*

“The Davis Square statues, entitled Ten Figures, are life-sized cast masonry public sculpture, created by James Tyler, located in Davis Square, Somerville,  …. The statues are based on people who lived near Davis Square in the 1980s. In 1996 bronze “masks” were added to the sculptures to repair vandalism damage and deter future vandalism.” (quote from Wikipedia: Davis Square Statues)

“The statues are cast in fondu cement, a strong material that Tyler once boasted was “fracture-proof.” Nevertheless, they have weathered damage through the years. The original cast-cement faces were damaged and were replaced by cast-bronze “masks” in 1996. The new faces look out of place to many, and some in online forums and around town have disparagingly dubbed them“death masks” or “black face.” “(quote from digboston post  April 2018 by Lynne Doncaster)

I recommend Lynne Doncaster’s enlightening post**for interview-based stories of how each of the ten figures came to be. The photos are more clear and dramatic than mine. Also she addresses some concerns I’ve had about how to preserve public art. **STILL STANDING: THE ENDURING STORIES OF THE STATUES THAT INHABIT DAVIS SQUARE, SOMERVILLE

For photos of some of the Ten Figures when James Tyler created them (1980), visit Public Art on his current website TylerSculpture.com . Explore the decades after that through images of his work on much larger scale and different directions. Note Brickhead series.

* Tyler’s ten figures did have at least thirteen years mask-free; then as statues, they really had no freedom to remove their bronze protective masks. All ten have admirably survived several challenges; they’ll never need soft pandemic-related masks some people have placed on them, except to remind us of what we need to do. 


  1. […] recent post about James Tyler’s Ten Figures in Davis Square led me to search out and visit his fourteen-foot tower of fifty bronze portraits completed in […]

  2. […] June post about James Tyler’s Ten Figures in Davis Square, Somerville, didn’t include snow scenes that I have since […]

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