IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: Sculpture Depicts Reliance; Citizens See Porn

LOOK CLOSELY AT THIS STATUE.  

What do you see?

To some citizens in the small town of Adrian, Michigan, this is an orgy.

Apparently, though, that’s not what the artist intended.  “Blue Human Condition” by artist Mark Chatterley is, in the artist’s words, a depiction of our reliance upon one another.  Chatterley told the Huffington Post,

“living today, we can’t do it alone — we rely on other people… to try to survive.”  

Chatterley has worked for about ten years with the Midwest Sculpture Initiative, which brings public exhibitions to cities across the region.  The city of Adrian selected Chatterley’s piece, and he in turn receives a rental fee, he said.

According to the Adrian Daily Telegram:

The sculpture was supposed to be one of seven in the city’s 2014-15 Art Discovery public art program. It was installed Monday afternoon close to the sidewalk in the lawn between the chambers building and other city offices on East Maumee Street, and complaints about what what people saw in the sculpture soon were being registered with city officials.

The piece by Mark Chatterley of Williamston is called “Blue Human Condition.” It features seven human figures: one kneeling and bent at the waist against the ground, two sitting on the kneeling figure, another sitting on the lap of one of the seated figures, and three others standing and leaning on the others. One of the seated figures is looking downward with the top of its head in the pelvic region of one of the standing figures. The figures are not any specific gender.

Susan Hodara, New York Times art critic, in a 2011 article described Chatterley’s figures as “somber,” in “elegant, contemplative poses.”

THE COMPLAINTS BEGIN

The statue was nicknamed “The Orgy Statue” after numerous complaints were received regarding the statue’s apparent “genital” contact–although the seven figures are sexless.

One vocal critic was local pastor Rick Strawcutter, pastor of Adrian’s The Church on Bent Oak.  Pastor Strawcutter believes that there is a nefarious connection between the installation of the statue and the recent passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance which extends civil rights protections to persons with same-sex attraction or who identify as LGBT.  (The town of Adrian already had in place protections based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, marital status and family status.  The amended anti-discrimation ordinance adds special protections based on physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and AIDS or HIV status.)

Pastor Strawcutter believes that the figures in the sculpture are male, and that they are engaged in various sex acts.  He produced a YouTube video in which he claims that the anti-discrimination ordinance would “enshrine perversion and abomination in a protected status.”  And everyone who sees the sculpture, according to Strawcutter, “just feels like it is in itself an abomination.”  

Other commenters–possibly members of Strawcutter’s church?–have left messages on the city website, saying they are “disgusted.”  The city should remove the statue, they say, to protect “the rights of the freedom of sight”–apparently a new right that’s been added to the Bill of Rights since I last read that document.

One critic of the work wrote:

While one can argue that that the artist himself said that there was no sexual meaning behind the statue, one cannot argue the fact that it is clearly easy to see how one (or, rather, many) would view it in that light. I believe it is very unfair and unkind to infer that those of us that do so have “dirty minds” and are “sexually repressed prudes”. If so, my children are “dirty minded, sexually repressed prudes” at the ripe age of 10, 11, and 13 (the youngest is 7 months). With no prompting on our part, they refused to even walk close to it when we were going to the library because they were “disgusted” and “grossed out”.

A passerby who is featured on Strawcutter’s video says, “It looks like there’s some sexual gratification thing going on…. I don’t really approve of it.”  

SOME POSITIVE FEEDBACK

But on the other hand, positive comments have been received.  One family posed for a picture assuming the same positions as the figures in the sculpture, in an effort to show that the work need not be seen in a sexual context.

A website and a hashtag called #SavetheBlueHumans have been established.

According to the Adrian Daily Telegram, City administrator Shane Horn said he received several complaints Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday he received 10 comments about equally split between those who saw something sexual in the sculpture and those advocating that it be kept.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

The statue, which was installed outside the Adrian City Chambers building as part of the 2014-2015 Art Discovery program, will now be removed and placed in a less conspicuous location.  The statue has reportedly been moved to Yew Park, still in the downtown area but less conspicuous to passersby.

*     *     *     *     *

 SO WHAT DO I THINK?

Chatterley’s other works, as shown on his website, would seem to support his claim that there is no sexual innuendo intended in the sculpture.  This is an artist who often groups human figures in close proximity to one another.

In this case of “He Said, He Said…” my sentiments are with the artist, who has no obvious intent of depicting flagrant sexuality.   On his website, Chatterley writes:

Everything is either moving toward or away from nothingness.  Life, death, creation and destruction this is the world I find myself in.

I want my art to echo these thoughts, everything in a state of flux, changing and reforming.  A sense of decay along with life.  Nothing is permanent and nothing stays the same.

I also try to show thoughts and feelings of the human condition.  Beauty in the malformed, acceptance in the inevitable.  I am doing work of our time for our time, even though I look to the past, the dead for inspiration.

Here, some examples of what I mean:

From 2009 – “New Idea Coming In”

 

From 2010 – “Building Blocks II”

And if Chatterley does create a work with an intended sexual context, he has been open in acknowledging that, as in his 2010 creation “Pleasure Ride”:

From 2010 – “Pleasure Ride”

It appears that in this instance, sin is in the eye of the beholder.  You may not love the art; Chatterley’s forms may be too stark for your taste.  But are they sexual?

I don’t think so.  What do YOU think?

 

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

    There’s no way the artist didn’t surmise that sexuality could be construed. If he didn’t he’s a pretty dumb artist. Whatever he claims was his intention, I would say that sexuality is clearly part of the theme, whether he intended it or not. Plus they are hideous. Is there any good modern art out there?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

    He’s been “creating” different variations of the same visually unappealing crap since 2008. If anything it just shows his total lack of imagination as an artist.

  • http://venerableantiquity.wordpress.com/ Аѳанаси

    Certainly scandalous. The “work of our time for our time” indeed.


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