There’s a difference – no small one – between a physical kick, such as the harm done to person or property, and the kick one might perceive, rightly or wrongly, in criticism aiming only to elucidate and improve.

Here’s my kick, criticism in a spirit of give and take for something better – not of the giant “Seven” by Robert Indiana exhibited in Congress Square but of the choice by the Portland Museum of Art “to announce its address at 7 Congress Square” by placing the sculpture before its front door, in one of the city’s heart centers, one of the city’s most choice locations for enriching our lives with an experience of public art.

I have walked by Indiana’s “Seven” and felt not inspired, not lightened, not even pleased, but upset and not because of jealousy, one motive given for some vandal’s recent defacing and damage to it. While jealousy by some less-celebrated artist than Robert Indiana is a possible motive for such an act of vandalism, it’s as baseless an assumption as my calling that response defensive.

I, too, have walked by “Seven” and have felt, if not angry, keenly disappointed, because the choice of putting that massive “Seven” in Congress Square so frustrates my yearning for aesthetically and emotionally engaging public art. The art dominating this central, busy city plaza should speak to the heart. “Seven” says nothing to the heart.

I appreciate what the Portland Museum of Art’s director, Mark Bessire, and chief curator, Jessica May, give us inside the museum.

I have to ask, given their choice of exhibiting “Seven,” what is the nature of their concern for what is meaningful to the Portland community? What is at the heart of their concern for public art?

From all I have read so far, it appears they aren’t listening, that the vandalism, wrong as it is, might be rooted in something they need to hear: that their choice of public art violates the public trust.

“We presented a wonderful and important piece of art,” Bessire said, as though, as museum director, he was speaking gospel (“Robert Indiana sculpture defaced outside Portland museum,” Jan. 16). Robert Indiana’s monumental “Seven” sculpture may have been important in the 1980s as part of an evolving story in the history of art, but how does it serve us now in Portland, Maine?

The museum’s intention to use the sculpture “to announce its address at 7 Congress Square,” as Bessire told the Press Herald, makes me think of it as less wonderful than a very pricey door ornament, at the reported cost to the museum of $400,000.

To be fair, Bessire has also said “Seven” was exhibited “in hopes of helping to transform Congress Square, meant almost as a figurehead for a city that sees itself as a place for bold art.” (“Figurehead” is an ironic choice of words, invoking for me images of the bare-breasted figures that once adorned the prows of schooners, an iconic part of Portland’s history.)

Indiana’s “Seven” may have been bold when first exhibited by the Indianapolis Museum in the ’80s, but the boldness of that statement is more a part of art history than what the sculpture is capable of evoking today, here in Portland.

Praise, nonetheless, for Bessire’s commitment to public art: “We feel strongly that art should be on the inside of the museum and on the outside of the museum … and that is what we intend to deliver.”

Please, though, occasionally give us some animal beauty, including the human, some visitations in art of Nature, some relief from our architectural urban necessities of macadam, mortar, brick, steel and glass, house numbers, all of which contribute to distancing us from each other, as well as from our animal brothers, as if we, too, weren’t part of the animal kingdom, eroding our humanity.

“Understand,” Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother, whom he loved, “the figure of a laborer – some furrows in a plowed field, a bit of sand, sea and sky – are serious objects, so difficult but at the same time so beautiful, that it is indeed worth while to devote one’s life to expressing the poetry hidden in them.”

Please give us public art that occasionally reminds us of a deeper sense of what it means to be human in this unfathomable, incredible world.