Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Leave It To Beaver: Controversy in Bemidji

by Doug MacRostie

When I first heard that there would be a series of beaver statues painted by local artists displayed around Bemidji, I'll admit I giggled. And when some of the artists would do status updates on Facebook about "working on my beaver" I also would giggle. What I'm talking about is a new series for the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, funded by the George W. Neilson foundation (they bought the blank beavers). Area artists were selected by committee to paint the beavers. 9 were put up for display on June 20th. Get more info here. They will be displayed for a year, and then auctioned off to benefit the Sculpture Walk, with 30% going to the original artist.

Here is the series sitting together, before being displayed throughout downtown Bemidji:And now the controversy: Gaea, the third beaver from the left has been removed from the Sculpture Walk. Here's the description by Deborah A Davis of her Beaver Gaea, "That the fertile earth itself is female, nurturing mankind is a belief that crosses culture, time and borders. Gaea means Mother Earth. It also means 'God is Gracious,' and is one of the 52 feminine aspects of God in the Christian Bible. Gaea in mythology was a female Titan. If we could embrace the strength of womaness, celebrate it, we would become the people we are meant to be: nurturing, loving, whole." Or, is it obscene and pornographic?

Here's Gaea in her downtown Bemidji location:As you can see, there are forms of the female body, there's a tree growing up from the tail...and what's that on the front? A person rising from bubbles? A flower? A vagina? Mother Earth?

This is where the question comes in: is it pornographic? Bemidji City Manager John Chattin says yes. And he told the Bemidji Pioneer that he doesn't regret the decision.

Deborah disagrees, "I did not intend it to be sexual or titillating in any way," Davis told the Pioneer, "I would never do pornography. I am anti-pornography."

Gaea was taken down on Thursday, July 1st and as of right now there are almost 1000 people who say "Bring Back Gaea to the Bemidji Sculpture Walk" on Facebook. The Bemidji Pioneer has a poll running on their website that shows 77% favoring the returning Gaea to the Sculpture Walk, and the City of Bemidji seems to be at odds with an active arts community, with other pieces in the beaver series now showing signs of solidarity (aka: wrapped up Burqas). This topic is expected to draw a lot of people to the Bemidji City Council Meeting tonight at 7pm. I know I'll be there...


Sarah Gorham said...

It's obviously a vulva and I approve! Hilarious!

Laurie Swenson said...

Whoops. Bemidji Pioneer, not Pioneer Press. :)

91.7 KAXE said...

Whoops is right - we've made the correction. Doug said, "Tell them I did it on purpose to make sure everyone was paying attention" :)