By all appearances, when it comes to making a name for yourself in the arts, Jersey City, NJ, wants to be more than Manhattan's neighbor across the Hudson River. It wants to be Manhattan.

In June, this column reported that Jersey City was getting a Pompidou Centre satellite in 2024, which certainly will put Manhattan's tiny neighbor on the proverbial map. This past week, Jersey City unveiled an 80-foot-tall sculpture of a woman's head on its waterfront called "Water's Soul," but to what effect?

What you see is a disembodied female head stretched to its towering height with a finger held to her lips as if to shush you.

If this elongated head looks familiar, it's because kindred heads have appeared in public places in many American and European cities with varying modifications and titles.

What's in a name?

The sculptor, Jaume Plensa, told the New York Post that his Jersey City installation is "paying attention to the water." But that rationale doesn't hold water when it comes to his many similar configurations. I'm thinking of the 40-foot-tall version called "Look Into My Dreams" in Chicago's Millennium Park, minus the cautioning finger.

A similar head went on exhibit in Rockefeller Center in 2019 with hands covering the eyes. And one in Madison Square Park in NY in 2014 came with eyes closed. Then there's the 60-foot-tall head in Merseyside, England called "Dream," and the same looking head at the Perez Art Museum Park in Miami called "Looking Into My Dreams."

To be fair, artists have a trademark look to their work.

Every figure that Amedeo Modigliani painted had his signature elongated shape, which also marks Plensa's work. But with Modigliani, it's a style, not the whole enchilada. At best, Plensa's works can be called variations on a theme. Did Jersey City know it was getting a variation?

One-of-a-kind art

It doesn't sound like it, given what Richard LeFrak, who commissioned Plensa, told ArtNet, "We are proud to welcome Jaume Plensa's breathtaking sculpture to this one-of-a-kind neighborhood as we continue to establish …the growing art scene taking shape in Jersey City."

Does a variation of other sculptures suit a "one-of-a-kind neighborhood"?

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Did anyone in Jersey City think to look Plensa up? His website plainly hawking "made in China" renditions of the head now on its waterfront.

Plensa's work reminds me of a story I wrote in 1999 about a public sculpture for the Sarasota Public Library called Bookman - a nude man sitting on a pile of books. As it turned out, it wasn't the one-of-a-kind work that Sarasota sought.

It bore a too-close resemblance to a statue of a nude man sitting on a pile of books titled Evert for Massachusetts Transportation Authority in 1992.

Distinction with little difference

Both statues were made by the same artist - Ralph Helmick. When I asked him about it, he acknowledged the resemblance, calling his Sarasota version an "adaptation." But in his application statement for the commission, Helmick said, "If Sarasota County is concerned that the artist will create subsequent thematically similar pieces, the fabrication contract can address this matter."

Not unexpectedly, Helmick lost the commission. If only Jersey City had looked past the showiness of an 80-foot-tall sculpture.