Wednesday, January 23, 2008
frank-ly, my dear . . .
Way back when, shortly after I started this blog, Paul and I visited the Red Rooster Winery, and saw Michael Hermesh's sculpture, The Baggage Handler. I posted not only about my impressions of the sculpture, saying I found it simultaneously moving and comic, but also offered a survey of the history of public response to the work. What follows is a condensed version of that earlier post . . . After it was installed in the Okanagan City of Penticton in 2005, city officials received complaints about Frank's nudity. Trying to accommodate the city, the artist affixed a metal plate to cover the offending area, but it was removed almost immediately as aesthetically disjunctive, interfering with the viewer's appreciation of the artwork. Over the next several weeks, while the sculpture remained in place, it was vandalized regularly, most strikingly by having the genitalia removed. Meanwhile, the mayor and councillors claimed to be offended that they hadn't been more clearly informed that the commissioned piece would be nude. Although they had seen a model before the sculpture was built, the mayor said of the model's diminuitive nature that "even if he had a telescope, he wouldn't have been able to ascertain whether or not the figure was clothed." Another newspaper article quoted him as saying that he's "not opposed to nudity, per se" and expressing his concern that the poor man (Frank, that is) is unclothed in the minus eight degree weather.
The whole affair was so ridiculous and distasteful for me as a British Columbian that I was very pleased to see in today's news that Hermesh has been awarded $14,000 in damages in a suit he brought against the City of Penticton. Meanwhile, Frank is happily ensconced in a gorgeous setting in the Naramata winery, Red Rooster. I'll drink to that!