Nude sculpture at shopping center has the usual suspects complaining

By Calvin Palmer

A bronze statue outside a shopping center in South Florida has come under criticism from the usual sources.

The PTA president of a nearby elementary school has e-mailed parents asking them to complain about the sculpture by artist Itzik Asher outside the Addison Plaza shopping center, west of Delray Beach.

The sculpture, titled Journey to the New,  features a nude family, man, woman and child, and is anatomically correct, although the figures are angular and elongated. It represents the journey of Russian and Ethiopian Jews from their homes to Israel.

While the subtle nudity depicted in the sculpture would hardly raise an eyebrow among the citizens of European towns and cities, the people of Florida seem to be in denial regarding the existence of breasts and genitalia.

“My daughter has been joking about it,” said Jeffrey Cohen, whose six-year-old daughter attends summer camp there. “She shouldn’t be talking to me about this.”

Why not? Would Cohen cover his daughter’s eyes on a trip to Rome when confronted by Michelangelo’s David?

“It’s a figurative piece, somewhat abstract,” said Richard Caster, who owns the shopping center and has other large sculptures displayed on its front lawn. “It’s natural and beautiful.”

Caster said he has received some complaints, but also praise.

But Jamie Garroway, Morikami Park PTA president, said she found it distasteful and e-mailed parents, asking them to file complaints with Caster and with Palm Beach County Code Enforcement.

“Everybody has a different idea of what art is,” said Garroway. “If this piece was at a museum I would not have a problem with it.”

Why does it make a difference if the sculpture is indoors or outdoors?

Terri Pavals, a teacher in the school’s summer program, said she has not heard any of the children talking about the piece.

“It’s the parents who have been talking about it,” she said. “The children don’t really make an issue of it.”

And people like Garroway use the children to mask their own prudishness and insecurity.

Journey to the New has previously been displayed at Palm Beach International Airport, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach and at Mizner Park in Boca Raton.

It is not the first time Asher’s work has provoked complaint.

In 1995, the Boca Raton City Council made him cover the private parts of several of his sculptures with cardboard fig leaves until public outcry and national attention about the city’s position prompted a change of heart from city officials. He later removed the leaves.

“It’s a shame that people respond to art in this way,” said Armand Bolling, director of the Karen Lynn Art Gallery in Boca Raton. “If they walked into the Vatican they would walk into a lot more radical stuff than that.”

Meanwhile, Cohen hopes the statue is removed before school starts in a few weeks time and 900 children are exposed to the fundamentals of the human condition.

I can only think because it would leave his shriveled mentality intact and beyond reproach.

[Based on reports by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Associated Press.] 

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