Whimsical statue too close to police memorial, says Syracuse police dept.


Jessica Posner says: I'm a loyal reader, and have recently made a splash in the Syracuse news cycle with my sculpture "Wigged Monument." The Syracuse Police Department is less than pleased with my 11-foot black obelisque topped with a a blonde, flowing wig (imagine the love child of Richard Serra, RuPaul, and Louis XIV). It made the cover of the Ssunday paper, as well as a substantial piece from the local Syracuse CBS syndicate.

Michael J. Marcely, president of the Syracuse & Central New York Police Retirees Association, complained about putting the work next to the Police Memorial in a letter published Wednesday in The Post-Standard. He called the piece a "monstrosity."

"It is an insult to (the memory of Wallie Howard) as well as the memories of the other nine fallen heroes," he added, asking the city "to remove this abomination to a more appropriate location."

WTVH CBS-5 video | Syracuse Post-Standard Articles (one) (two)


  1. Context is everything. The sculpture would be saying something else if it were positioned elsewhere, would it not?
    Jessica, was location a factor? To your mind, is the piece site-specific?
    Also, what is your motivation for the work?

  2. It seems to me that this piece needs to be seen in context. The problem is that seen contextually it is rather absurd and funny which could certainly be seen as disrespectful to those the nearby monument honors. I don’t think it is a monstrosity, but the placement does seem rather inappropriate.

  3. Who decided on the location of the sculpture? I can see that the proximity of the two could be a problem – for both someone in a reflective mood contemplating the loss of a friend or loved one, and for the artist who wanted to build a fun or whimsical piece.

    My sympathy for the police is somewhat mitigated by the guy calling it a monstrosity and an abomination. How is he helping his cause by being so insulting?

  4. parks aren’t graveyards, they are multi-use. As cities age, things get squished together and not always prettily. Get used to it. I also predict this public display of touchiness has been noted by those who feel ill-served by the police in the past. That monument might just get turned into a vandalism football next.

    Minus twenty points to the cop foolish enough to stray into art criticism, now he’s made this a freedom of expression battle.

  5. I’m out as I can see where this is leading.
    I do think parks should be a conglomeration of things squished together in a way that makes sense and is respectful, however.

  6. I agree that context is everything. and it could easily be in a location that didn’t clash with the nearby memorial.

    that is the kind of argument you want to use. not blatantly insulting the artwork. In light of that, fuck em. I’d fight to keep it where it was till they learn to ask nice.

  7. Hmm.. am I the only one who sees a blond wang? Because I can totally see how that would be inappropriate. “Monstrosity” is stretching the point though.

  8. The deceased are just jealous that the sculptor didn’t make big blue bobby hats for their graves too.

    And I second that the police spokesman comes across as an arrogant prick, but remember, that’s what being a cop is. (Well, that and being corrupt).

  9. The thing looks phallic, gross and weird. A memorial for Police officers that died in the line of duty should be treated with respect. Let’s say it was a memorial for people that died during protest marches during the 60s, would you want a big nightstick shaped obelisk just a few feet away? – a bad analogy I suppose, but I work with police officers all the time and attend their funerals, they think of their memorials as sacrosanct.

  10. what is the police force’s record on treatment of women? Hiring? Sex assault case handling? Stupid public statements perhaps? Is there a subtext here?

  11. All things aside, am I the only one who thinks the sculpture itself doesn’t look that great anyway?

    Then again, I am not the biggest fan of modern art, so I might be wrong.

  12. So, what part of Syracuse does the good union president see as an appropriate location for something he describes as an abomination? Shouldn’t it properly be banished from the city limits?

  13. @Tom Hale “…they think of their memorials as sacrosanct.”

    Yes, we get it. That’s what a lot of us were saying. The location is unfortunate, we get that too. We’re all wondering how and why this particular piece got where it is. As far as I can tell from the article, there is some kind of agreement between the city and the university.

    If the cop/spokesman had come out with a plea, a reasoned argument, anything but his outrage and insults – I think people here would be more sympathetic.

  14. I was thinking this was reasonable until I read the line “… to remove this abomination to a more appropriate location.” Abomination? I’m not much for the piece but go screw yourself asshole.

  15. step 1, sit & spin.
    step 2, get wild hair up ass.
    step 3, feel ashamed next day and try to have it removed from sight

  16. “Oh, no! The police insulted my art! I better milk this for some publicity. BoingBoing likes art and distrusts cops; I bet they’ll give me a splash!”

    Please, BoingBoing, put on your thinking cap. This is not a case of state oppression of free speech. It’s a case of a poorly placed sculpture. Is there anything wrong with a little solemnity, when appropriate? Is there anything surprising when a bunch of small-town cops are upset that a light-hearted sculpture was placed near a memorial to some cops who died on the job?

    If the sculpture had any interaction whatsoever with the site this might be a question worth wrestling over. It doesn’t, and it’s not.

    BB, have the guts to admit this was a silly cause to take on. No crime against humanity, just a silly cause to take on.


  17. Why does this kind of posting always lead to comments in “f*** the police” attitudes?
    Why do people always judge entire body of the police, ignoring good people working hard?

    Yes, the system itself maybe (and probably) flawed, yet you cannot just criticize every part of the system because of that.

    I always consider myself as liberal, and not a biggest supporter of the police, but I still respect them.

    Let me ask you something, has any of you ever worked by putting your life on the risk to help others?
    At least many members of the police work hard to help people.
    How many of you ever do that?

    Stop bitching. If talk is all you do with no actions, you don’t desrve to bitch about anything.

    P.S. Did Mark Frauenfelder give any thought it would some issues before posting?
    If not, shame on you. If so, what’s so different of Boing Boing than those radical/right/conservative blogs we despise of?

  18. Does this park really need multiple statues within a stone’s throw of each other? Perhaps another park would benefit from one of the statues.

  19. “If the cop/spokesman had come out with a plea, a reasoned argument, anything but his outrage and insults – I think people here would be more sympathetic.

    Agreed – but you know law enforcement officers (I hate the word “cops”), they often have a problem with rage and displaced anger. We’re just lucky he vented on them before he made his next traffic stop. “But officer, I slowed down to almost a complete stop at the light. Isn’t that good enough?

    Put your hands up! Get out of the car!

  20. Coming from someone who loves Dan Flavin, most of the installations at Dia: Beacon (http://www.diabeacon.org/exhibs/bindex.html), and a lot of other fun, modern sculpture art (no expert by any means but a amateur appreciater) I think you could definitely make the

    Sadly it seems to be a visual mockery of the adjacent monument. Trivializing the actual memorial with a wigged version. If it is then the artist is a jerk. If its not then its just an unfortunate coincidence of placement. The quoted officer could have been nicer but I am sure the paper was looking for a good quote and… well… “sticks and stones.”

    Also @ #12DECKARD68 grow up… I hope you never find yourself in need of those arrogant, corrupt pricks.

  21. a heartfelt public apology from the cop with the fast mouth might be a good start. They they could talk.

  22. It’s bad placement because it could be confusing, the “wig pillar” bears some resemblace to the memorial. That’s just bad planning.

    If anything the police spokesperson should direct their issues towards the parks services personnel who oversee placement.

    All the “F— the cops” or “Cops are always right!” posturing is just tiresome. There are terrible police officers and cops who spend their lives in decent public service. Making pejorative comments about entire professions speaks badly of one’s ability to be discerning.

  23. JeremyNYC @20, what makes you think of this as a “cause” that BoingBoing has “take[n] on”? The Boingers post all sorts of stuff that they think is interesting, or weird, or funny.

    Also, please don’t sign your comments. They already have your name at the top.

  24. @21 oversandal “Let me ask you something, has any of you ever worked by putting your life on the risk to help others?”
    Not to toot my own horn, but I was shot Jan 3 this year while fighting an apartment fire. A Glock .45 was stored in a closet, the closet was on fire and the pistol became so hot, the chambered round fired, went through a wall and hit me in the right upper abdomen.

  25. If it isn’t clear all ready, cops really don’t have a sense of humor regarding themselves. Actually, let me rephrase that. Cops don’t have a sense of humor regarding anything from outside their group that may or may not be directed at them. We’ve all ready seen what they consider funny re: the Denver police “We get up early to beat the crowds” shirts. Anything they see as being even remotely insulting towards them puts the author of the assumed insult on dangerous ground.

    And as far as the “fuck the police” attitude a previous poster mentioned, I think it would be a lot less prevalent if the police conducted themselves more like public servants and less like a gang. Sure, there’s good people who are cops. Those same good people will nearly always stand up for the ones who aren’t so good. They protect each other with a zeal that would be admirable if it were also applied to us little folks that pay their salaries. They’re supposed to serve US. If they can’t handle that part of the job, or the myriad of dangers always quoted at us that are an accepted part of that job, too damn bad. Perhaps their attitude may have something to do with why people might associate them with a monolithic cock.

  26. Watching the news video clarifies some things:

    1) The sculpture is intended to be a statement about the lack of female artists representation in public art (iirc);

    2) The location is a mistake; It and another sculpture’s locations were flipped by the maintenance crew that installed it. The other sculpture, from what I could see in the video, looks pretty neutral in tone.

    Granted, the cop interviewed says that the original location would still be inappropriate, but I’d bet if the wig thing was put in its correct place to begin with instead of next to the memorial, the cops wouldn’t have raised a stink.

  27. Don’t people go to public parks to have fun? I’ll take the big dick in drag over the memorial, thanks.

  28. Oh, it’s in a park?! That was a dumb idea. Put memorials in a space preserved for memorials. The city should buy or clear a small plot of land and place the memorial there. If you place it in a park you shouldn’t be surprised at anything that happens.

  29. an apt summation Skull, very good.

    Do police want to be treated as heroes? We all instinctively recognize a hero.

  30. @30 Tom Hale

    Wow, that’s prettey horrible and painful story. Thanks for sharing. I guess you truly deserve to voice your opinion.
    Most of us who made comments in this posting have never done anything in your level. I know I haven’t.

    By the way, am I the only one who still thinks the sculpture is not so good-looking anyway?

    P.S. So, I can use the word “fuck” when I put comments at BB?
    Fuck, I though they would just fucking censor that. Silly me.
    I gotta keep using that fucking word whenever I put comments.

    P.P.S. I forgot to put the word “hard” in the sentence you quoted. Thus “..ever worked hard by putting your life…?”
    Damm, I always forget to double-check before I post something. I gotta really fix this bad habit.

    I think you’d have a better point if you weren’t using the example of dead police officers to make your point. You’re telling me that every cop in every jurisdiction everywhere is a thug? Some are jerks and we know it. But some are good.

    Also, I’ve seen tons more respect given to graffiti murals to dead drug dealers than the respect shown here. So if a group of retired police officers complain, that’s them being “mean” and “bullying”. How exactly would you describe the behavior of work-a-day thugs who harass others to the point that if you even think of painting over a mural to a murdering scumbag, you might as well be dead? Heck don’t even setup a fruit-stand in front of such a mural if you want to avoid getting hassled by underlings.

    I like art, I think the statue is wry but I do think the placement is wrong. And there’s a valid complaint here.

  32. The thing looks phallic, gross and weird. A memorial for Police officers that died in the line of duty should be treated with respect.

    What? A giant dick isn’t respectful?

    The sculpture is intended to be a statement about the lack of female artists representation in public art

    FAIL. Good conceptual art is quite difficult. You really have to think about what you are doing all the way through. This is high school level crap.

  33. I work with police officers all the time and attend their funerals, they think of their memorials as sacrosanct.

    And yet, Police Officer isn’t even on the list of most dangerous professions. They carry guns. And tasers. They have life and death power over the citizenry. They’re sometimes corrupt, sometimes violent. So why the idol worship?

  34. So, to summarize:

    A. The sculpture wasn’t ever ment to be placed in that location. It got there by mistake.

    B. Someone whith an emotional investment in that location has pointed out that the sculpture shouldn’t be there.

    C. That someone is a police officer.

    And strangely, in the comments, this gives us

    A+B+C= cops are humorless thugs.

    For the record, I think Posners sculpture is hilarious and pretty, and it deserves to be displayed in a more appropriate context.

  35. But, if my son were to be killed whilst on duty, and please Tarvu he isn’t, I woulld certainly prefer that that, or any other, Wig Phallus be somehow sheathed from my view.

  36. @Tom Hale – “I hate the word cops…”

    When I was a kid (in the early 60s) my mom taught me that “cops” was a disrespectful way to refer to “policemen”. And I actually got her point. It was a different world back then.

    Nowadays, I consider it to be a rather polite way to refer to the majority of law enforcement officers.

  37. Antinous, Yes, a police officer is probably more likely to die en route to work than while on the job. I respect Police officers and I work with them, but I don’t have any idol worship for them.

    If your experience with police officers is only while getting a speeding ticket or while watching COPS (Yes- I know you don’t watch COPS), it would be easy to get a false image of what it’s like to be a police officer. I’m not talking about traffic cops here. Police officers are often asses because all day they have to deal with the lowest that (American) humanity has to offer. I’m not excusing them for it, but I can see how it would be difficult to drop the aggressive nature they need while dealing with our thugs when they are dealing with normal people and off the job life. After seeing some people needlessly treated like shit by police officers, I think weekly counseling should be required of all police officers that work in bad areas.

  38. It’s a good sculpture. I like the idea and the execution. But if it were next to my mother’s grave, I would be appalled by it.

    The sculpture makes a point. Granted, it’s not a terribly original point, but it’s a point that deserves to made again in contemporary America.

    The problem is that it’s not going to make its point in the context in which it’s placed. The context, in this case, interferes with the points of the sculpture AND the cemetery. Moving the sculpture would be a favor to both the decedents’ loved ones AND the sculptor.

  39. Think the cops are pissed off now?

    Imagine if it were a statue of a PIG.

    *copies first two posters and ducks as well*

  40. I think parks are inappropriate places for dead people, or memorials for the dead. It’s a place for kids to play and for people to have fun.

    Whimsical statues don’t dampen the fun much, but reminders of dead people are a real buzzkill. Couldn’t the reminders of dead people have been placed in a more appropriate spot? Somewhere where those who want to contemplate their heroism could do so without a stray frisbee hitting them in the head and such?

  41. In this case, the officer mentioned was the first Syracuse officer to die in the line of duty since 1954.

    He was killed in 1990 while working with the DEA, trying to buy $42,000 dollars worth of cocaine from a 15 year old, who, with his accomplice, shot the officer in an attempt to steal the money.

    Another casualty of the drug war. His death took two kilos of cocaine off the street, which no doubt was easily replaced by another two kilos of cocaine in the pipeline. Sad, really. Seems like kind of pointless reason to be killed.

  42. If you put memorial statues in the park, you had probably better be prepared for stuff to happen to them. If I put a sculpture in a park, I’d expect it to be interacted with (sat on, spray painted, fucked on, pissed on, etc. FYI, all of the above happen regularly, you just don’t always see evidence of it.) A park is public land. You cannot reasonably expected anything left in a park to remain inviolate.

    As far as that sculpture goes, it is not terribly offensive. It’s a freaking blond wig on a pole, designed to talk about something utterly unrelated to policemen (who are being humorless dicks, here.) How does this translate into a direct affront to dead police officers? People put all kinds of shit in graveyards which is not designed to disrespect anyone in particular.

    Dia de los Muertos food, for instance, can include pork in the tamales or posole. If the graveyard is small and cramped, you have pork on the surrounding graves as well, which might contain the mouldering remains of a Muslim or Jewish person. Does this mean the family who came to have dinner with and honor their dead relatives came to disrespect the graves of other people?

    I would argue no, because of intent. Just like the artist came, so to speak, to talk about female sculptors, not dead cops. The fact that the cops are being incensed about this seems a little pointless, to me. Even if it was critique, it might be guilty of silliness (but that’s not its purpose) but still a protected form of speech. I hear shit I don’t want to all the time. The fucking god squad comes to my college and camps outside my department with twenty foot pictures of aborted fetuses (with no warning), and yet no one forces them to leave. They stay for a week screaming at pedestrians in front of the main campus library and picking fights with people, but no one molests them. Why do they have the right to ‘critique’ abortion for a week by exhibiting twenty foot pictures of body parts and picking fights with people but this artist is being berated for the misplacement of a sculpture that has nothing to do with policemen?

    Free motherfucking speech, that’s why. So read it and weep, Marcely. The hurt feelings of one person do not remove the right of another person to speak.

    Or someone would have smacked a pro-lifer by now. The yelling occasionally interrupted class, as did the presence of twenty foot close-ups of fetus parts.

  43. *blows Takuan a complex and duuuurty air-kiss, just because*

    And don’t even get me started on the campus preachers who call women whores and sluts by way of telling them about Jesus. Back in the ole 2003, on this campus, there was one guy who got up on the concrete ledges next to the statues and called the women who passed by names. For the most part, students tend to just walk by or laugh when these guys come onto campus. Or women. There are female preachers, but the ‘profession’ is mostly angry white middle aged guys with funny hair or hide-a-cat beards.

    It’s a waste of time to argue with them, and after awhile they just keep repeating things like ‘heathen’ and ‘you’re going to hell, missy.’ The college allows them to wax insulting for awhile, then the campus police ask them to leave. (I think they get permits, but who knows?)

    I also saw them in Louisiana, but that there’s gawd’s country, so I suppose you should expect to be called the Whore of Babylon on the way to your psychology class. (Well, not really.)

  44. #39:
    “I think you’d have a better point if you weren’t using the example of dead police officers to make your point.”

    I’m not using dead police officers to make my point. The dead ones aren’t bloody well complaining about the sculpture now are they?

    “You’re telling me that every cop in every jurisdiction everywhere is a thug?”

    No, I’m telling you that the ones who are thugs can usually count on the “good” ones to come to their defense. So honestly it doesn’t matter how nice and polite they are if they’re still aiding and abetting thugs.

    “How exactly would you describe the behavior of work-a-day thugs who harass others to the point that if you even think of painting over a mural to a murdering scumbag, you might as well be dead? Heck don’t even setup a fruit-stand in front of such a mural if you want to avoid getting hassled by underlings.”

    I think what you’re missing here is that none of those “work-a-day thugs” is doing what they’re doing a). on my dime and b). with the expectation that they’re supposed to be protecting people and not brutalizing them. There’s no equivalency here. I’m not advocating for the freedom of your anecdotal graffiti criminals to harass and attack people. I’m saying clearly that the job of the police is not to treat every person they interact with as a potential threat. I’m saying it’s not their job to carry out summary executions. I’m saying it is not their job to be the ultimate arbiters of who’s an asshole and needs a good beating for it. I’m saying it’s not their job to slam someone’s head into the concrete for “being disrespectful”.

    It. Is. Their. Job. To. Protect. Us. Full stop.

    Using a riot baton to knock down a 110-pound woman holding flowers is not protecting us. Busting down some grandmother’s door in the middle of the night, shooting her and then leaving her to bleed to death on the floor before getting some throwdown bags of narcotics to cover up what happened is not protecting us. Tasering and then shooting a naked man suffering from second-degree burns is not protecting us. And finally, screaming that “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW HARD THEIR JOB IS!” when someone mentions anything like any of those incidents is not only not protecting us, it’s dangerously short-sighted. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: cops have the power to fuck up other peoples’ lives to a degree that very few other groups in society can. They do not need LESS scrutiny, they need MORE. Agitating on their behalf for less scrutiny isn’t going to magically protect you from getting your ass put in a wringer should one of the cops you’re so enthusiastically defending get it in their head that you’re not being sufficiently respectful. Are you going to tell yourself “Oh he’s just obviously had a bad day.” while you’re sucking concrete with some 250-pounder’s knee on the back of your neck? Are you going to tell yourself that you obviously deserved it or asked for it?

  45. Wow. Maybe I should start reading the local paper. I drive by that everyday and had no idea there was some issues with it.


    As for the park comments, it’s basically a glorified traffic meridian on E Genesee. Also, why wouldn’t parks be for art? Public art is a conversation the city has with it’s residents. Obviously, you put them in public places. I think you might be confusing the typical suburban parks with urban parks. They don’t tend to operate/function the same way.

  46. I love how when a police officer says something that people don’t like, it’s “Fuck the cops, they’re all thugs”. I hope all you “fuck the cops” people never have to call 911 for any reason.

    Having said that, this individual police officer is a dick. Yes, you’re upset because they put an irreverant sculpture (which bears a striking resemblance to a gravestone with a wig on it) next to the memorial. Bad form, and actually a mistake. An abomination? I don’t think so. But my guess is that the officer thought the sculpture was actually meant to mock the memorial, because that’s certainly what it looks like to me, from the photo above, and lashed out. I’d like to think I would have had a cooler head about it, but I can’t really say how I would react because I don’t have any dead friends with memorials, thank god.

  47. Contextually, Syracuse Stage is about 500 feet up the street and I think there’s an art gallery around there too. The area is not just about the memorial.

    Though I have to agree, it’d be more respectful to locate it a little farther away from the memorial. Like on that little triangle bit on the east end. It’s closer to the Stage then.

    (And, yeah ok, I think it’s a one liner but it’s not my neighborhood.)

  48. I’m sure we can have a discussion of public art and respecting the dead without this turning into a “fuck the ______” match. How about we try to agree to the following?

    1) The art supporters have a right to be offended by what the individual cop said, but should try to consider the feelings of the people who lost comrades in the line of duty.

    2) The cops have a right to take umbrage at the placement of the sculpture, but should try to remember the importance of public expression.

  49. I like the sculpture itself. On its own, it seems whimsical and amusing. But to place it directly in front of the police memorial is in extremely poor taste. I do hope the sculpture is moved.

  50. I love how when a police officer says something that people don’t like, it’s “Fuck the cops, they’re all thugs”. I hope all you “fuck the cops” people never have to call 911 for any reason.

    Just to be clear, that’s your extract from the comments and doesn’t even dimly reflect what’s been said in the thread. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder. If your attitude is that hostile, I hope that you’re not a cop.

  51. I’ll take the big dick in drag over the memorial, thanks.

    I spewed my drink over this! :D

    I see what the ‘memorial people’ are saying, but I still think they are lacking the sense of tolerance that belongs in a public place.

    Nobody defiled the memorial, they are just sharing the park. And upon looking at the video, one can see that the sculpture is several yards away from the memorial. If you are actually facing the memorial, you won’t see the sculpture. According to the people complaining, where exactly does the ‘perimeter of solemn’ ends? 20 yards? The next block? Do you have to leave the park if you need to fart?

    I don’t think humour or whim is ‘offensive’. If it was a statue directly insulting to policemen, it would be another story. If the memorial people think they should control what others do or display in the general vicinity of the memorial, they should have placed it in a private garden, not a public park.

    And I would say the same if it was any memorial, whether for cops, war victims or my grandmother.

  52. I agree with the police, this thing doesn’t belong there. I wouldn’t have used the words that he used though.

  53. #22 oversandal, Let me ask you something, has any of you ever worked by putting your life on the risk to help others?

    Being a policeman is not the most dangerous profession. Try driving a truck.

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