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!

8 comments:

  1. How funny! I was just in the car listening to As it Happens, and they were chatting with Hermesh. Talk about a tempest in a teapot. He even notes that all this publicity is only to the good for him in terms of promoting his work.

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  2. What rubbish. And here I thought only the US was living in the dark ages. (Did I just say that "out loud"?)

    So glad the art has found a good home!

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  3. How utterly silly some people are about the human form. Glad the artist prevailed!

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  4. What a great story! So good to know Hermesh triumphed.

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  5. jillian, sue, and tara (miss Ripley will already know this): I should probably point out that because of its climate, the Okanagan has been a mecca for retired folk and it's possible that demographics are significant -- altho' I'm not planning to protest nude art as I age, personally! There's also an interior small town mentality that lingers, obviously, but the incident is not necessarily representative of the Okanagan over all. Perhaps representative of small-town politicians?

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  6. materfamilias, just wanted to let you know that I've tagged you for a meme over at Une femme. This one's fun, I promise!

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  7. I do wonder whether a white marble statue of a reclining voluptous female nude would have met with quite so much disrespect. Having said that a wonderful bronze sculpture of a shell by Maggie Hambling placed on a suffolk beach has ben vandalised many times too, by a similar demographic, so as they say in the North "there's nowt so queer as folk"

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  8. alison: the same question crossed my mind. or perhaps had the male body in question been somewhat more heroic, rather than exquisitely vulnerable, poor thing.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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