Days after a statue of Medusa holding the severed head of the Greek hero Perseus was unveiled at the Collect Pond Park across the Manhattan Supreme Court Building as a tribute to #MeToo, the statue is facing flak for inaccuracy and nudity.
The statue, which inverts the Greek mythological story of Perseus slaying Medusa was installed in an attempt to rewrite the narrative around sexual harassment and violence against women in the 21st century. The sculpture, created by Luciano Garbati, was created ten years ago and is part of an artist-activist led initiative called the "Medusa With The Head Project" and wants to draw attention to one of the most vilified women in folklore who in reality was really just a victim of sexual harassment.
According to Greek myth, Medusa was a priestess at the temple of the Olympian goddess Athena when Poseidon forced himself on her and raped her. Upon finding out that Medusa's vow of celibacy had been broken, Athena punished Medusa instead of the powerful Poseidon and turned her into a Gorgon with a head full of snakes and a vision that would turn any man to stone. She was later slain by Perseus, son of Zeus, who kept her severed head as a token of his victory and a weapon to petrify enemies. Several statues and paintings of Perseus holding the head of Medusa commemorate this historic injustice.
With the statue, the artist tried to reimagine Medusa as an empowered woman who was not slain as a monster but lived to fight yet another fight against her oppressors.
The statue has, however, led to a debate about the accuracy of its messaging. While any appreciated the installation of the statue outside the court where Harvey Weinstein was recently convicted of rape in the first big win of the #MeToo movement, critics wondered by Medusa was depicted as a "skinny" woman with a "barbie crotch". Others also objected to the depiction of Medusa with the slain head of Perseus as it was Poseidon who had raped her and Athena who had cursed her in punishment.
Responding to the news, one Twitter user wrote, "Pretty sure most people are just going to be confused about why there's a naked woman statue out in the public area, and those who do know the story are going to be annoyed that it's been screwed up".
Yet another wrote, "This seems more like some man’s fantasy than a statement or commentary on sexual assault".
Pretty sure most people are just going to be confused about why there's a naked woman statue out in the public area, and those who do know the story are going to be annoyed that it's been screwed up...BTW Perseus was innocent in this... Poseidon is the guy who messed up Medusa— Eirene Vapor (@EireneVapor) October 9, 2020
If we really wanted to justice for Medusa, we’d make a statue of her beheading Athena; if we wanted a Medusa for the MeToo movement, we’d make a statue of her beheading Poseidon. https://t.co/vsAXd8OTfB— Zoé (@ztsamudzi) October 10, 2020
If this is supposed to be so empowering for women, why is Medusa so skinny and pube-less? This seems more like some man’s fantasy than a statement a commentary on sexual assault.— Laika the Space Dog (@MicaelaMendlow) October 11, 2020
Pros: retelling myth to reclaim female power!Cons: Barbie crotch; male sculptor; Poseidon is the bad guy, not Perseus. Did I mention the Barbie crotch? https://t.co/tBtl5188zE— Erin L. Thompson (@artcrimeprof) October 9, 2020
Honest opinion, should've been Poseidon and/or Athena head in Medusa's hand(s). They were the ones who screwed her over. Perceus just a son trying to save his mother after being tricked to kill Medusa. Both are victims in this.Not a great way to interpret that statue.— Fidel // Frenchy (@Shattered5hadow) October 10, 2020
Why is she nude? She's asexual assault victim. Why is she exposed like this?— AnnMarie Byrnes (@AnnMarieByrnes) October 9, 2020
The seven-foot bronze sculpture, "Medusa With The Head of Perseus," was unveiled on Tuesday (October 13), across the street from Manhattan Supreme Court, where Harvey Weinstein was convicted. Its author, Italian-Argentine sculptor, Luciano Garbati, said he was inspired by the challenge of revising the popular myth by the Roman poet Ovid.
(With inputs from Reuters)