This is a story of great expectations, not the Charles Dickens variety of revenge and reward. Unlike Pip, this is about an artist with a tendency to believing his own hype.

The artist, who goes by the name KAWS (born Brian Donnelly), made an 18-foot bronze statue for Rockefeller Center shaped like Mickey Mouse with his eyes crossed out holding a knock-off of the Sesame Street TV show Muppet Elmo.

Donnelly says the long, sad winter that closed the city down moved him to do something “optimistic…It’s really an important time to have public art.”

Are you a man or a mouse?

But after a year of sickness and death from Covid, and now suffering from the Delta variant, is a monument to a mouse the best feel-good art idea?

Shouldn’t a statue intended as a symbol of optimism be heroic given the selfless acts of frontline workers who risked their own lives to save others? What does it say that Donnelly’s feel-good art omits anything human? Taking humankind out of the picture doesn’t feel good. Just opposite.

The Brooklyn Museum is showing what Artnet calls Donnelly’s “cartoon aesthetic.” To see it, you can choose to visit the museum. But you have no choice at Rockefeller Center. The statue is in plain view in the center of the city. At a towering 18 feet, it’s inescapable.

Donnelly says that “having opportunities to put my work into the world” is his idea of optimism. Putting aside that his idea of optimism is not mine, it’s not even his work.

Mickey Mouse was Walt Disney’s idea and Elmo was created by puppeteer Kevin Jeffrey Clash for the TV show Sesame Street. So, he’s got a twisted idea not only of optimism but also of “his work.”

Say what?

Also not making sense is the managing director at Rockefeller Center, E.B. Kelly saying in a statement, “KAWS’s work subverts expectations while feeling both familiar and stylized.” What does that even mean?

Subvert as in overturns? OK, his statue of Mickey and a Muppet certainly demolishes my expectations for such a prominent spot. “Familiar? You mean because Mickey and Elmo have been around before Donnelly aped them- that kind of “familiar”? And by “stylized, are you referring to him taking other artists’ ideas and reconfiguring them to 18 feet?

That kind of stylized?

When I think of a feel-good statue installed in the middle of a city, Michelangelo’s David, the Biblical hero pops to mind. It was hit with his fellow Florentines from the start. Originally intended for the top of the dome of the Cathedral of Florence, the City Fathers of Florence chose to set it in their main square, so everyone could see a shepherd boy protecting his people.

Missing in action

And as tall as the statue of David is, Donnelly’s mouses stand a foot taller. Rockefeller Center would have done better with an abstraction, say by Barbara Hepworth. Despite the non-objective shape of her memorial to Dag Hammarskjold at the United Nations Plaza in NY - an asymmetrical rectangle tipped on one end, it comes across as jaunty and brave. Imitating a mouse and a Muppet is too silly for any more words.