Since Trump has made such a stink about memorializing historical losers in statue form, the Trump Statue Initiative has decided to take it upon themselves to bestow the same honor on the famously narcissistic 45th President of the United States. As they explain on their website:
The Trump Statue Initiative is a way for artists to share their point of view on our 45th President's most notoriously self-serving, narcissistic, and racist moments. And then memorialize his legacy in a way our President can truly relate: Realistic heroic statues. Yeah, unfortunately, statues and monuments are something the big guy is spending a lot of tax payers' dollars protecting right now, while we scramble to find funding to fight surging COVID-19 infections, historic unemployment, and daily racist attacks.
We encourage you to join our movement and create special statues of your own, or perhaps vote for one of our pieces you see today to be a permanent installation here in historic Washington DC.
Existing installations include "The Poser," located at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC:
As well as "The Bunker," conveniently positioned in front of the DC branch of the Trump Hotel:
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After a year of enduring the unfortunate sight of a Melania Trump statue -- a crude eyesore thought of by locals as a "disgrace" and likened to a "Smurfette", Melania's hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The wooden statue, carved with a chainsaw by artist Brad Downey, was set on fire July 4th by "vandals," according to CNN, and then promptly carted away by officials.
Downey said he received a call from the local police department asking him what to do with the statue, which was made in July 2019 as part of an ongoing project that includes a short documentary film.
He said the statue was removed on July 4 and he asked locals not to distribute photos of the scorched figure so it did not become a "violent meme."
Downey has filed a police report but said he is only interested in finding the attackers, not pressing charges against them.
"I would be curious to see who did it," he told CNN. "Someone doesn't like what it represents or how it looks," said Downey, who believes that the timing of the attack -- on US Independence Day -- means it was not a random "drunken act."
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As long as statues of historical figures (and what to do with them) is at the forefront of our cultural conversation, there's this from Smithsonian Magazine:
The busts are all that remains of Virginia’s Presidents Park, a now-defunct open-air museum where visitors could once walk among the presidential heads. Presidents Park first opened in nearby Williamsburg in 2004, the brainchild of local landowner Everette “Haley” Newman and Houston sculptor David Adickes, who was inspired to create the giant busts after driving past Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
But their presidential visions soon (literally) went bust. The park, which cost about $10 million to create, went belly-up due to a lack of visitors in 2010. Doomed in part by location—it was hidden behind a motel and slightly too far away from colonial Williamsburg’s tourist attractions, the park went into foreclosure.
But something had to happens to all those heads when the park closed down. And what follows is a fascinating look at preservation, in a cemetery-like field that's both sweetly patriotic and incredibly creepy.
How 43 Giant, Crumbling Presidential Heads Ended Up in a Virginia Field [Jennifer Billock / Smithsonian Magazine]
Image: Mobilius in Mobili / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest
A statue of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester's Maplewood Park was vandalized on the anniversary of the "What to a slave is the Fourth of July?" speech that he gave in Rochester in 1852.
Given the current cultural conversation that the United States is having around statues and memorials that commemorate people who did terrible things alongside their other accomplishments, this unfortunate act is being held up as some kind of monolithic indicator of the eeeeeeevils of "cancel culture" and whiny liberals who want to get rid of statues. Consider these tweets from Yascha Mounk, a contributing editor for The Atlantic and Senior Advisor for Protect Democracy:
As of this writing, it's not clear who destroyed this statue — one of fourteen Douglass statues in Rochester, where Douglass lived and was buried. In 2018, two drunk college kids also destroyed a Frederick Douglass statue in the city. Eyewitnesses claimed the students were shouting racial slurs, but the vandals themselves insist they were just drunk and did it for the lulz. They pled guilty, and had to participate in a restorative justice program to learn more about Douglass and his contributions to the world.
In other words, even that situation wasn't an indicator of anything other than the seeping subtleties that empower entitled white dudes to do dumb shit and get away with it. Read the rest
Since 1940, a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt on a horse flanked by a Native American man and an African man on foot has stood outside New York City's American Museum of Natural History. After years of protests against the statue's composition, the museum has now decided to remove it. This decision follows a special exhibition last year, titled "Addressing the Statue," about the disturbing monument and its historical context. (See exhibition video below.) From the New York Times:
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“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue." [...]
A Roosevelt family member released a statement approving the removal.
“The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV, age 77, a great-grandson of the 26th president and a museum trustee. “The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.” [...]
Critics, though, have pointed to President Roosevelt’s opinions about racial hierarchy, his support of eugenics theories and his pivotal role in the Spanish-American War. Some see Roosevelt as an imperialist who led fighting in the Caribbean that ultimately resulted in American expansion into colonies there and in the Pacific including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines.
During the anti-racist uprising, protestors in the US and England have been toppling statues of historical figures connected to slavery, colonialism, and oppression. (Above, Christopher Columbus taking a dip in Richmond, Virginia last week.) With these bronze figures weighing around 3,500 to 7,000 pounds, pulling them off their pedestals isn't an easy task to do safely. So Popular Mechanics asked for advice from mechanical engineer Scott Holland. And in case you're tempted, "Popular Mechanics is not encouraging anyone to remove any statues." From PopSci:
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...The OSHA-mandated upper force limit for horizontal pulling per person is 50 pounds of force—“but that’s for working every day,” he says, “so you could probably do twice that.”
At 100 pounds of force, then, we’re talking about a 35-person job to drag the statue, Holland says. But to pull it down, “let’s assume twice the force—so you’ll need twice as many people.” So before you start toppling, you’d better recruit 70 buddies with a bit of muscle.
Now that you have your crew, you’ll need the right tools. Holland suggests grabbing a few 4x4 recovery straps, which can be rated to over 32,000 pounds and are far less cumbersome than a chain. Once you’re properly equipped, you want to get leverage, Holland says, “so you need to get the straps around the head or the neck [of the statue].”
To break the statue from its base, split into two teams on either side and work in a back-and-forth motion. Most statues are attached to the base by 2 to 3 feet of rebar, so you’ll actually be breaking it at the bronze above the rebar—not the rebar itself, says Holland.
In 2018, Barry Lawrence Ruderman, a rare map dealer from California, bought a folder of documents and blueprints related to the Statue of Liberty. What they didn't realize is that the lot contained almost two dozen original engineering drawings for the Statue produced by Gustav Eiffel's workshop. Ruderman and Alex Clausen, director of Ruderman's gallery, hope to eventually show the drawings at a museum but for now you can inspect scans they posted online. Greg Miller writes in Smithsonian:
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Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel's engineering plans when it came to the statue's upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm—a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”
The date on that sketch, July 28, 1882, as well as dates on several pages of handwritten calculations and diagrams pertaining to the arm, suggest that this change was made after much of the statue had already been built. “It’s really late in the game,” Berenson says.
As part of the Nepal government's new tourism campaign, officials commissioned more than 100 huge yeti statues designed by Ang Tsherin Sherpa to be painted by various artists and placed around the world to build excitement about visiting the region. A very fun idea but many people in Nepal don't think the statue looks anything like their beloved beast. From the BBC:
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"In folk tales, the yeti has been described as a big monkey-like creature," Ram Kumar Pandey (author of several books about the yeti) tells the BBC. "However, the recent logo depicts it as a sumo wrestler. This does not at all match with the mythical character that has been described in many folk tales..."
"I did not make yeti's sketch by reading any book," (yeti statue designer Ang Tsherin Sherpa) explains. "On the basis of stories that I heard in my childhood, and having Lord Buddha at the back of my mind, I made the design."
There was, however, at least one more practical reason behind his choice: Sherpa says he did not make it furry as depicted in yeti-related literature in order "to make it easier to paint".
George Best, a soccer legend from Northern Ireland, was immortalized in bronze, but it more closely resembles Pazuzu, the hideous demon infesting the Exorcist series of movies. Sure, it's not as bad as the Ronaldo statue...
... Or the Lucille Ball statue...
The BBC's Amy Stewart:
A new statue of George Best - the Northern Ireland and Manchester United football great - has provoked strong reactions from fans and critics alike. ... The often cruel social media sphere has not held back.
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On display in Copenhagen, Denmark's Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum is this glass display case filled with noses of myriad shapes and sizes. Why?
According to curator Anne Marie Nielsen, noses on 19th century statues are notoriously fragile and would frequently break off. So the owners of the statues (or perhaps even prior museum curators) would replace them with marble or plaster replicas. Nowadays though, the museum removes any replacement noses because they only want to display the original sculptures, faults and all.
“About 20 years ago, the museum had a box filled with noses [in our archives], and we weren’t sure what to do with them,” Nielsen tells Smithsonian.com. “We decided to group them together and put them [on display].”
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A concerned UK citizen called an ambulance from their car after spotting a person covered in snow, sitting stone still on a bench in the middle of a park. The ambulance rushed to the scene, only to find that the "person" was sitting stone still for a reason – she was actually a statue.
Paramedic Katie Tudor explained the mixup in a tweet:
According to Mashable:
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"Somebody in their car spotted who they thought was a person covered in snow and called us," a West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman told ITV news. "An ambulance arrived straight away and our crew was there for exactly minute and one second."
"The woman who called us had good intentions," he continued, "but it’s unfortunate that she didn’t go over to check first that it wasn’t a statue."
The statue is actually called "The Lady in the Park" and according to Brampton Park's website she was erected to commemorate "all the women in Newcastle-under-Lyme who lost husbands, sons and friends in the First World War and subsequent conflicts."
Preservationists restoring an 18th century statue of Jesus that was hanging in Burgos, Spain's church of St. Águeda found a two handwritten letters tucked into the figure's buttocks. Dated 1777, the notes were written by chaplin Joaquín Mínguez from the Burgo de Osma cathedral. The letters will be archived by the office of the Archibishop of Burgos while copies were put back into the statue's bottom. From National Geographic:
In his letters, Mínguez paints a picture of the region's day-to-day economic and cultural activity. The chaplain first notes that the statue was created by a man named Manuel Bal, who created other wooden statues for churches in the region. He then describes the successful harvests of various grains like wheat, rye, oats, and barley and stores of wine.
Mínguez also names diseases like malaria and typhoid fever plaguing the village during this time period, but adds that cards and balls were used for entertainment.
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Flower-bombing is the new yarn-bombing if Geoffroy Mottart has his way. He creates flower crowns and beards for statues around Brussels, then posts his handiwork online. Read the rest
There's an obvious answer to the smallness of statues' penises: the manners and religious prudishness of classical elites. But the issue is more about differing standards of beauty and modern mens' penis anxiety, writes Ellen Oredsson. Which is to say that smaller penises were once regarded as ideal, and many real penises aren't any bigger than the ones on the statues.
...small penises were more culturally valued is that large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness. There are actually quite a few ancient Greek sculptures that have enormous penises. Here’s one:
Small dicks are, then, associated with reason and logic. The argument gets strained when applied to the western renaissance, where imitation and idealism intersect more sharply with religious sentiment. Read the rest
JakeMarshall91 went to a museum and face-swapped with statues. The results are strangely horrifying and wonderful.
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Classical nude statues at Italy's Capitoline Museum were covered up this week in anticipation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit. Some politicians and art critics called out the stupidity. From The Telegraph:
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The president’s aides were also reportedly anxious that he not be photographed too close to a giant bronze statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback.
The Iranians objected to what one Italian newspaper delicately described as “the attributes” or genitalia of the huge horse, which dates from the second century AD.
Or in Italian, "Arte greca, pietra tombale di donna con la sua schiavetta, databile al 100 a.C. circa." Read the rest