Graphic Statue of Virgin Mary Upsets Neighbors in Old Westbury

She stands 33 feet tall, her body bronze and red in the winter sun, slashed open to reveal her skull, her tissue, and her developing fetus.

“The Virgin Mother”  is arguably the ugliest statue of Mary ever created.

The creation of internationally acclaimed British artist Damien Hirst, the controversial work stands on the historic Old Westbury estate belonging to real estate mogul Aby Rosen; and Rosen’s neighbors are not happy about it.  They’re so unhappy, in fact, that a lawsuit has been filed and a public hearing has been scheduled for May 19.

Among options being considered by Mayor Frank Carillo and the village board:

  • Impose a 25′ height restriction on any “accessory structures” (including statues) in the conservation easement where it currently stands, thereby making the Marian statue illegal.
  • Turn the statue so that the graphic portions (the fetus and internal organs) would be visible only from the Rosen house, not from the street.
  • Relocate the work to another spot on the 5.5 acre estate, so that it is visible only to the family, not to neighbors.

Old Westbury has stringent zoning codes and standards which protect the views for all residents.  For example, homeowners may not plant hedges or install structures–such as cabanas–which would prevent others from enjoying the rolling hills.

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“The Virgin Mother” on display in New York, before its relocation to Old Westbury

The statue, one of more than 900 artworks in Rosen’s collection, was purchased in 2005.  Before that, it stood in the courtyard at Lever House in midtown Manhattan.

It’s one of several versions that Hirst has created.  One, in which the Virgin is wielding a sword, stands more than 60 feet tall.

  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    This is sacrilegious!!

    I wish the Church would ask it be destroyed or removed.

    • Steve Kellmeyer

      Why is it sacrilegious?
      Mary was a human being, this is what a human body looks like underneath. It’s a radically clear statement about the dogma of Mary’s full humanity, no divinity.

      The Crucifixion was not aesthetically pleasing. Christ had his skin flayed from His back. Mary is said to share in the Crucifixion, so this both portrays the Incarnation and foreshadows Mary’s participation in the Crucifixion. In that sense, it’s brilliant and beautiful.

      • mike

        It’s sacrilegious because it depicts Mary in an irreverent way.

        • Steve Kellmeyer

          Christ is depicted in an irreverent way during the Crucifixion. It is only considered reverent now because we recognize that He is God and all He does is holy.

          If we recognize the holiness of Mary, then what is irreverent about this depiction of Mary?

          • Bridgeport Guy

            Steve, you’re always arguing against the way in which most Catholics are arguing. I think you like to do it for the sake of trying to tell others they are wrong. No disrespect to you, but what if someone displayed “art” that depicted one of your loved ones with breasts exposed and their skull showing through their head? Would you feel offended? This statue is offensive. The crucifixion is different as it shows Our Lord’s saving act.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            My reply is longer than this combox allows. Go here to read it.
            http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

            I understand your opposition to the image because I felt the same way myself when I first saw it. The problem is, I can’t figure out how to justify my emotional reaction. If you can come up with something, I would honestly like to hear it.

      • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

        This is SACRILEGIOUS!!

        If you and the rest of morons who agree with you by voting up to your stupid comment don’t see it don’t blame me for it.

        This statue is a monster.

        You don’t play with the Holy.

        The Blessed Mother was not just any woman fir that matter She was pure and remain a virgin. Our Lady is the Holy Mother of God.

        Let’s just get to the heart of the matter this is part of the war between God and the devil. In our world today there is diabolical people who serve the devil and his cohorts and it is these people who are in power today and who support this type of disgusting and irreverent garbage badly called art.

        The Church has gifted humanity with some of the most beautiful works of art. Artistic masterpieces made to honor and to offer praise and glory to the Creator and all that is His.

        That seems was in the past, today the secular world gives praise to the prince of this world. the devil.

        That is why these ugly monster is allowed to stand.

        But have it your way, it is written in the bible that at the end times those who are holy will become more holy and those who are sinners will sin more. This will happen because God will allow the sinners to condemned themselves even more so. Because of their evil hearts, God will allow them to be confounded.

        Douay-Rheims Bible
        Revelation 22:11
        “He that hurteth, let him hurt still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still.”

        “Jesus is Coming
        …10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11″Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” 12″Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.…

        Cross References
        Ezekiel 3:27
        But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

        Daniel 12:10
        Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

        Matthew 5:45
        that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

        So have it your way Hell is eternal and it is waiting for those who reject Christ.

        • Steve Kellmeyer

          Hey, I wanted to condemn it as sacrilegious too! BUT I can’t come up with a REASON to do that. I really, really wish you could give me a reason.

          I explain my problem more thoroughly here.
          http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

          I admit it – I’m stupid and probably a lot less spiritually advanced than you. Please give me a reason to reject this artwork that my limited intellect can handle. I can’t come up with one.

          • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

            Steve how honest and sincere are you with your comment above??

            Any Catholic and any one with common sense would get offended with this ugly statue.

            I agree with Bridgeport Guy and NO I will not go to your blogspot.

            I THINK YOU ARE PLAYING GAMES AND I WILL NOT WASTE MY TIME WITH YOU.

            OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST WARNED US IN

            Matthew 7:6

            “DO NOT GIVE WHAT IS HOLY TO DOGS, AND DO NOT THROW PEARLS BEFORE THE SWINE, LEST THEY TRAMPLE THEM UNDER THEIR FEET, AND TURN AND TEAR YOU TO PIECES”

            AND TO ANYONE READING THIS COMMENT DON’T FALL FOR Steve Kellmeyer AND HIS COMMENT “I admit it – I’m stupid and probably a lot less spiritually advanced than you. Please give me a reason to reject this artwork that my limited intellect can handle. I can’t come up with one.”

            He is not sincere and like I said it should not be hard for anyone who is a Catholic or at least with dome degree of common sense to condemned this monstrosity called art.

            It is simply very disrespectful to God, to Mary the Mother of God and to Catholics.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            I’ve been absolutely revolted by the statue, but I still can’t figure out how I can condemn it.

            I’m sorry you don’t want to understand my difficulties. I guess you’re just holier than I am. Holy people generally don’t help other people with their difficulties in the Faith, right? Or is that wrong?

          • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

            Yes you are wrong!

            People who are sincere tell you the truths your blindness don’t allow you to hear.

            You can ONLY blame yourself for that.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            Does that every apply to you?
            Are you ever wrong about anything?

          • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

            I am not saying I have all the answers or that I am perfect or that I know everything.

            I don’t know everything but what you are doing is very malicious, and there is something twisted about and how you say:
            “Hey, I wanted to condemn it as sacrilegious too! BUT I can’t come up with a REASON to do that. I really, really wish you could give me a reason.”

            And some of us have given you reasons and yet you EXCUSED YOURSELF BY REFUSING TO EVEN CONSIDER THEM.

            AND then you go back to repeating the same thing.
            READ WHAT YOU WRITE:
            “I wanted to condemn it as sacrilegious too! BUT I can’t come up with a REASON to do that. I really, really wish you could give me a reason.”

            This is why I say that what you’re doing is very malicious.

            Look…. go ahead and think whatever you want I just think you’re just twisted and you know very well why this piece of garbage is sacrilegious but you are CONTINUE to act dumb and go on pretending you can’t find a good enough reason to condemn it as offensive.

            Steve don’t think I don’t know people like you; go and fool someone else but not me.

          • bluesuede

            Jesus and Mary teach us the beauty of our dignity lies not in the body, but the soul.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            Yeah, when I asked for enlightenment, I started to LIKE the statue. The work started to open up to me and show me how the Marian and Christological doctrines of the Church are made present in the art.

            So, now what do I do?

          • bluesuede

            There is more outright blasphemy against what is holy and the art world often defends it even when many Catholics are offended.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            This piece of art doesn’t cause me to question Catholic Faith, instead, this piece of art helps confirm my understanding of Catholic Faith. So, now what?

            Which doctrine have I misunderstood?
            I explain what I’m thinking in my blog post on this subject.
            Where am I wrong?

            I was revolted by Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” which was VERY explicit. But I can’t think of a reason to condemn that piece of art either. Should I have ignored that movie? Should I tell people not to see that movie?

      • bluesuede

        I think this has no place in religious art.

        • Steve Kellmeyer

          Ok, well are all the pieces of artwork that involve nudity and were commissioned by the Vatican – are all those pieces of artwork ways in which the Holy Fathers have offended Jesus and Mary?

          Because there is a LOT of naked people art in the Vatican archives.

          • bluesuede

            After the Sistine Chapel art was done, it showed too much body parts, the way that Michelangelo always painted. The Pope asked another artist to cover up those exposed parts.
            It wasn’t until this past century, that those coverings were removed to reveal the artist’s original work and yes, more nudity. Yet, I think, some art is tolerated. But other art, is not.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            So can you read through what I’m thinking (post is on my blog) and tell me where I’ve gone wrong?
            http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

  • Malu Ribeiro

    Damian Hirst, I will not shy away from speaking my mind, and I can take a lot of licenses in art, but Damian Hirst is a fraud! and he proves right here in this show, minute 8:30 onward, he can’t justify his choices; he uses an art market, that quite honestly, wants to be used because it profits even much more than him.

    There I said it! People have guts to criticize religion (me too), I have guts to say “motherhood is over-rated”, and when art sucks! It’s all taboos people don’t want to talk about. Cheers, :D Malu
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBifk7lX2q8

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I don’t think it was meant to be disrespectful as a lot of modern art is toward Christianity. I kind of like the idea of seeing Jesus inside the womb. However, I don’t see the point of the naked breasts, intestines, and distorted face. On balance I don’t care for it.

    • Bridgeport Guy

      Come on, showing the breasts of Our Lady. Any Rosen should be taken to task for did paying this. He’s Jewish and mega wealthy. I wonder what kind of reaction there would be if a wealthy Catholic displayed a huge statue offensive to what Jews hold most dear. You can rest assured the media would make a circus out of it.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        I didn’t know he was Jewish. Anyway, he’s only the collector, not the artist. I think it’s a poor attempt to be hip and artsy. The breasts are there to emphasize the motherhood. Clearly he’s pushing acceptable bounderies, but it’s not subversive. I just don’t see any cynicism in there, like in the “Piss Christ” crap. How would you articulate his cynical point?

      • Steve Kellmeyer

        Ever hear of the vision of Bernard of Clairveaux? He actually had Mary squirting milk out of her breast and into his mouth. Famous vision from a Doctor of the Church, depicted fairly frequently in artwork, as depicted below. Does this make Bernard an irreverent blasphemer?
        http://media.kunst-fuer-alle.de/img/41/m/41_00391372.jpg

    • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

      I don’t think you understand what you’re saying.

      Knowing how Our Lord Jesus was in the womb of Our Lady perhaps it is not for us to know because everything about His Incarnation and His birth was miraculous in nature and part of a sacred Mystery.

      This statue is SACRILEGIUOUS for many reasons, but let’s focus on some of these reasons the statue is trying to portray Mary like any other woman. It is true She was a woman but a woman not stained by sin, and second the artist portrays what he calls Mary naked how dare he???
      Damien Hirstwhen intent is malicious and it is meant to offend Our Lady who is the Most Holy Mother of God.

      IF he is not a Christian then the least he can do is respect Christianity.

      This is satanic and I don’t want to be in his shoes when the Lord calls him to His Judgement Seat.

      “”Jesus is Coming
      …10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11″Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” 12″Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.…”

      “Athanasius

      “The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God” (The Incarnation of the Word of God 8 [A.D. 365]). “

      • Steve Kellmeyer

        It doesn’t show His birth – it shows only Mary carrying Him in her womb. Which she did. What aspect of this is not respectful?

        • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

          What part of this statue is clearly offensive to God, and disrespectful to Our Lady you don’t understand???????

          Matthew 7:6

          “DO NOT GIVE WHAT IS HOLY TO DOGS, AND DO NOT
          THROW PEARLS BEFORE THE SWINE, LEST THEY TRAMPLE THEM UNDER THEIR FEET,
          AND TURN AND TEAR YOU TO PIECES”

          Our Lord Jesus Christ was WARNING the faithful about people like you.

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            I don’t understand. I’m stupid. So help me. Give me a reason from Church documents or the Church’s handling of artwork. This explains my problem – maybe that will help you understand my level of stupidity so that you can explain it to me better:
            http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

          • Malu Ribeiro

            The statue is sufrerable, it is not something that required the artist to have any skills, it’s a product of picking parts of other things via computer etc, and having technicians do the work and represent his “vision”. And he has no vision, the lines of this sculpture lack personality or specific style, it’s generic and a computer could have created that too. As I posted below, I consider Hirst a fraud.
            But, but… that quote has nothing to do with exhibiting body parts of any saints; so much art commissioned by devoted believers and Church, exhibit Mary’s breast and of other female saints. By being so chocked, you’re actually giving value to a pretty mediocre statue! All these kinds of “offensive” artworks on religion or morality are derivative, have been done for a long time. They should have lost power by now!
            How can art really impede your faith or devout adoration? especially outside the church. Make a petition to have it removed because it’s lousy art, not because you allowed it to affect you! It’s just a piece of bronze in shape of a woman showing her insides. Who cares what the artist calls it if it’s not the virgin to you? Art is a social phenomena, even reclusive artists were not reclusive. Hirst definitely wants the attention, so his art is social. The audience finishes a social work of art, finishes the meaning, the value both spiritual and financial, not the artist. So the congregation gets to decide. Tell the news when they’re shipping it away, you “don’t want it! it’s not good!” That would be a victory to you! (not being shocked, that’s victory for him)

          • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

            I agree with most of what you said and thank you I appreciate and respect your point of view. Nonetheless images of all kinds produce an effect on a person, and it does make an impact on a person psyche.

            Images affect us in so many ways.

            For Catholics images of God the Father, Jesus, Mary and the Angels and Saints help us to remind us that there is an invisible world that is there even though we don’t see it.
            It reminds us of the beauty of Heaven as described in the Bible and by the Saints who got the opportunity to visit it and left writings of how beautiful everything in Heaven is.

            Beautiful things and images in art etc. lift our spirits to what is good and beautiful. Everything that belongs to God is beautiful, on the contrary the ugly seems to always reminds us of the beauty that fallen angel lost when he rebelled against God and if you study theology it also reminds us of the effect of original sin after the fall. Theology explains how the whole universe lost grace and suffered or was affected by the fall of Adam and Eve.

            Catholic churches especially those before the modern catholic church structures of today used to be very beautiful. The point of that is to give God a worthy beautiful place where to worship Him and also it helped all us attending Holy Mass to elevate our souls and minds to the things of Heaven. In other words it helps us to focus more on the divine and leave the things of this world behind even if is for an hour.

            Beautiful Catholic churches with all the beautiful altars, statues, incense, candles, bells, flowers, stained glass windows have other purposes and symbolism in the Sacred liturgy but they also help create an atmosphere where it quiets us down and bring us to be more spiritual and reverent it makes more aware that we are in the presence of the Divine ALL THE TIME even though we don’t see it with the human eyes.

            Check this out:
            http://ortodoxiacatolica.org.mx/reflexiones/el-altar-catolico/

            Now going back to images you and me would agree that most people prefer beautiful images around them whether they are on the street or in an gallery or museum or in their homes or in their place of work or in their churches; people will in most cases prefer to be surrounded by images that are pleasant to look at.

            Ugly things most people will just find disturbing, repulsive, ugly and will most probably respond negatively to it.

            When it comes to this disgusting piece of garbage supposedly depicting Mary this is simply ugly and obscene it is disrespectful to us Catholics because we honor Mary the Mother God and we don’t want Her disrespected in any way.

            I hope that in my broken English you can get an idea that any images cause reactions in us and they do affect us and they affects us in a positive or in a negative way, and even though some might say we should not let it affect us images affect us anyways that is why we should fight to remove ugly, negative and offensive images out of the public sites, they don’t do good to anyone because they do disturb the soul.

            PS. When you say “How can art really impede your faith or devout adoration?”
            It is not about impeding my faith or the faith of those whose faith is firm and fed by continuous prayer and learning about our faith. BUT it could affect the faith of those whose faith is already shaky, and it could also affect the faith of children and teens who are very impressionable and maybe not mature enough to understand that this garbage is not Mary but something that was made to offend other people’s faith.
            I say that because I believe that Damien Hirst and others using your words who do all kinds of “offensive” artworks on religion or morality DO KNOW what they are doing and they are doing it with the purpose to offend.

            Can you imagine if a parent who is not very strong in the faith walks by with his/her child in front of that ugly monster and the child ask:
            “who is or what is that?”
            What if the parent says “is Mary with baby Jesus”
            Do you think the child will feel safe praying to such ugly depiction of Mary or Jesus as a fetus?
            Children and teens most likely will be scare or not feel very reverent to Mary and Jesus when they see them depicted in Church art again.
            So again images do affects us.

          • Malu Ribeiro

            Well, I appreciate your response. It confirms that all these different symbols and elements, art, candles and incense provide a feeling of elevation to a more spiritual level, which as a secular person, I can also experience and feel, I just don’t attribute it to anything super-natural, but I understand the emotions and the search for that place that removes us from ordinary life.
            The problem is that many secularists have a hard time to accept that religious people will believe that image is deeply connected to your beliefs. They want you to question your connection to that representation, to question your beliefs, but that’s not going to happen just because we want you to.
            It’s obvious that this piece doesn’t make you question that Mary might have been a normal woman, or that by attributing more to her, you’re a polytheist not a monotheist, or make you question more simply that the mother of Christ (as holy) was a normal woman, etc. It just shocks you! (so in that respect, since that’s all the depth that Damien Hirst, the artist wanted to cause, he succeeded)
            Alain de Boton, a philosopher, is more on track understanding the need of the masses for solace and comfort, but most secularists seem to miss that point.
            While I respect your reaction, and that of the congregation, I’d like to just explain, for honesty sake because of something you wrote above, I don’t think art should be always beautiful, I don’t dislike this sculpture because it’s ugly, I dislike it because it’s a composite of generic things extracted from the web, and the artist does gratuitous shocking things for shock sake.
            Outside any religious establishment artists and people are allowed to express whatever they wish, even if it offends some religious people, that’s democracy and freedom of speech. If this work represented for me an honest quest and real artistry, I’d not have a problem with it (I’d still respect that you or the congregation want it out of their land).
            But art is not meant to be only beautiful and pleasing, art can be provocative and political, or a means of making us question things and even, remove our sense of security.
            I just wanted to clarify, be honest.
            I understand where you’re coming from, but your feelings give this art more power and relevance than it deserves, that’s why I was suggesting to just trash it as a secular bad piece of work, and not out of outrage and offence, but if you can’t help your emotions, you can’t help, and that’s of course, understandable, at least, to me. I hope I was clear! Thank you.

        • bluesuede

          Ask a modest woman, like a faithful Christian or a nun, what being unclothed in public would do to her?

          • Steve Kellmeyer

            I can show you literally dozens of pieces of art, many commissioned by Rome, that show the Blessed Virgin’s breasts and nipples.

            The first time I saw this work, I wanted to condemn it. The link below lays out why I’m having a problem. Can you help me articulate the reasons, please?
            http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

          • bluesuede

            I don’t think this is about a few pieces of art where the artist shows more skin. I think this is about how far can a piece of art go before it becomes a scandal and offensive to virtue and sacrilegious.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        “the statue is trying to portray Mary like any other woman”
        Renaissance art all protrays Mary as a regular woman. I’m not arguing that the artist is devout or even Christian. I just don’t see any cynacism in there. He’s not bashing Christianity in any way that I can see. Like I said elsewhere, he’s trying to be hip and artsy with a traditional art motif, the Virgin and child. And he did a poor job of it.

  • AugustineThomas

    Man crucified Christ, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this vulgar insult to his Blessed Mother.. Though I have to admit it makes me want to drive there in the middle of the night with a trailer, cut it down with a big grinder, load it up, and go to a furnace and melt it.

    • Steve Kellmeyer

      Can you explain why it’s a vulgar insult? Because I really WANT it to be a vulgar insult, I have to agree that I find the image repulsive in many ways, but I can’t figure out WHAT the vulgar insult part is.

      Really, honestly, I can’t. I’ve tried. All I can come up with is Marian doctrine and that fact is disturbing.
      This explains what I mean in more room than a combox has:
      http://skellmeyer.blogspot.com/2014/05/envisioning-mary.html

      • April Spring

        The statue is disgusting, because the mystical sense of the Mother of God is NOT Honor. The statue deprives the sacred character of Mary. She is just a body with a baby, who is she? The statue reveals that she’s nothing special, look at her body. She’s ordinary just like you and me, so don’t honor her.

        Most modern day artists are boring and their religious works are a desecration of Holy things.

  • DarkRadiance

    Google Maria Lactans. Mary’s breasts have a long and venerable history in art and hagiography.

  • bluesuede

    The divine attributes of modesty and purity are exemplified and magnified in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  • bluesuede

    As much as we can find comparisons of Mary with others, Mary is very different.
    She was created without sin, that puts her on a higher plain than the pure angels. Her body was pure, because sin never defiled her. It was God’s will that she be the most pure and perfect vessel to give birth to His Son, whom nothing defiled entered into.
    That’s why the Catholic Church can defend the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her perpetual virginity. A prefiguring of Mary’s purity, was the Ark of the Covenant that contained the presence of God. That’s not something non-Catholics believe.
    She deserves our highest respect for her own merits and her purity because it glorifies God.

  • April Spring

    The statue is disgusting, because the mystical sense of the Mother of God is NOT Honor. The statue deprives the sacred character of Mary. She is just a body with a baby, who is she? The statue reveals that she’s nothing special, look at her body. She’s ordinary just like you and me, so don’t honor her.

    Most modern day artists are boring and their religious works are a desecration of Holy things.

    Do you want to see a true masterpiece?

    Go to: http://www.treeoflifetheology.org

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Kathy I decided to post my own thoughts on this discussion and linked your blog to my post:

    http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/2014/05/art-statue-virgin-mother-by-damien-hirst.html


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