By Agrippina Fadel
Would citizens of Tamarac be offended by an art piece depicting “woman’s rear end”?
The city commission believes they would.
A controversial sculpture, “Dancing Bliss” by Joni Younkins-Herzog, caused a heated discussion at the city commission meeting on January 26.
What began as a routine presentation by the city’s art consultant Beth Ravitz about the new art pieces selected for the “Inspiration Way” quickly turned into a discussion about whether the art can be offensive.
The fate of the whole exhibition was momentarily uncertain, as the commission members could not find consensus on approving the pieces.
Ravitz told the commission about the 12 new sculptures chosen by the city’s art committee and asked for their opinion.
At an art committee meeting, Commissioner Debra Placko said she had seen larger and more detailed pictures of “Dancing Bliss” – a 7.5 feet tall steel sculpture of multiple legs captured in a moment of dancing.
“At that point, the pastor from Community Christian Church said (about the sculpture), ‘not near my church,’ and I very clearly said it was inappropriate. It shows women’s body parts. I do not want to see it anywhere,” said Placko.
Ravitz said that the statue is a series of legs that are dancing, to which Placko quipped, “and what are the legs attached to?”
Placko said that to her and others at the art committee, the sculpture looked like a “woman’s butt with legs coming out.”
She added that the pastor’s reaction to the art piece was an indication that choosing it would not be the best idea for the city and accused Ravitz of being forceful and vocal about the subjectivity of art.
“I appreciate art, but we have young children, and this is not at all acceptable,” said Placko, adding that the young residents might want to come to see the exhibition on Nob Hill.
Ravitz reminded the commission that Inspiration Way, located on Nob Hill Road between Commercial Boulevard and McNab Road, is a vehicular exhibit. People see the sculptures as they drive by, but they do not stop and get out of their cars to examine them closer.
She added that she asked the artist behind “Dancing Bliss” at the art committee meeting for additional pictures and videos showing a 360-degree view of the sculpture.
“Based on what they saw in the additional images, all five members thought it was a beautiful and very original piece, and unanimously decided it was not in any way offensive,” said Ravitz, adding that she and her partner George Gadson are not the voting members and have no final say on what pieces are chosen.
The plan was to place the sculpture in front of Public Works and turn it a certain way, so the back part would not be visible from the road, she said.
Placko told Ravitz she respects her opinion as an artist but still believes that “Dancing Bliss” is inappropriate.
Mayor Michelle Gomez added that the passing drivers might not see the “butt” of the sculpture in the proposed location, but the city employees could if they were walking by.
The art committee is a recommending body, said Ravitz. “Whatever you decide is what we will do.”
The commission went through several motions about the exhibition, all of them failing and Gomez ready to put Inspiration Way on hold. The only thing all five members agreed on was to exclude the sculpture altogether.
Ravitz then asked the commission members to advise her on how to expedite the project.
“The installation has been scheduled with an engineer and tentatively planned for February 14.” The participating artists come from across the nation and are all scheduled to install that week.
The city’s community development director Maxine Calloway supported Ravitz and asked the commission if there was a way to move forward with the rest of the exhibition.
“In the past, we were asked to align the removal of the existing pieces and the installation of the new art close together, so the timing is important,” she said.
After another discussion, four out of five commission members agreed to allow the Inspiration Way installation to go on.
The art committee was tasked with choosing another sculpture to replace the “Dancing Bliss.”
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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