Seemingly blinded by a smudge of gold across his brow, a strange sculpture stands with its mouth partly agape. Its bronze body is adorned with boughs and branches. This six-foot metallic child is Branch Boy (“Oksapoika” in Finnish), the centerpiece of a bizarre folkloric sculpture trail.
Branch Boy’s feet are sunk into the sidewalk, or perhaps just missing, and he appears to have mislaid at least one of his hands. By following the direction of the sculpture’s empty-socketed gaze, eagle-eyed observers may spot a second part of this odd sculpture trail.
Branch Boy seems to be watching a pair of fairy-like representations of the ancient Finnish Sun and Moon goddesses, Kuutar and Päivätär, frozen in an eternal chase around a nearby lamppost. The goddesses have no heads, nor any other body parts to speak of, being represented simply by tiny bronze dresses.
On a bench behind Branch Boy, a six-inch-tall, stick-limbed chrome gnome on a plinth looks like a left-behind award for Best Mythological Creature. Elsewhere on Kauppakatu Street, bronze rye bread dangles from a lamppost and abandoned bronze shoes lie like litter under a bench.
These strangely entertaining sculptures are the work of Finnish artist Pekka Kauhasen. Erected in 2013 following the pedestrianization of Kauppakatu, a thoroughfare leading from Finland’s largest city square, the sculptures are intended to be humorous nods to the woodland legends of Savonian mythology. Branch Boy himself bears his bough-like appendages in reference to Kuopio’s intimate connection with the woody wilderness on its doorstep.