Sunday, February 19, 2012

What's The Big Deal About "The Warrior Within" at Wasilla High School?

The new sculpture at the main entrance to Wasilla High School is causing controversy.  Soon after it was emplaced, it got covered over:
WASILLA — Jim Dault and Shala Dobson are proud to display their artwork at Wasilla High School. After all, the Meadow Lakes artists are Valley residents and have a familial connection with the school.
That’s why Jan. 29 was an exciting day, Dault said. That’s the day they installed their sculpture “Warrior Within” in front of the Mat-Su Borough School District’s largest high school. Three days later, however, the $100,000 work of art, contracted through the state’s Percent For Art Program, was covered by tarps and has remained under wraps since.

The reason? Some students think the stone and concrete sculpture that features a pair of shields surrounded by feathers resembles female genitalia. The oblong shields, one made of aluminum and another of bronze, are emblazoned with warrior symbolism, the artists say in a description of their project.

“Emerging from the powerful stone form are two warrior shields encircled by glowing feathers,” the description says, adding the art is a monument to the warrior spirit. “The bronze shield has a hand impression showing ‘good deeds.’ The aluminum shield has a flame symbol representing the ‘spark of inspiration.’ The stone form represents the strong material from which a warrior is made.”

That’s the message the artwork conveys, Dault said, and he and Dobson are now working with the school to help educate students and parents about the art and its ties to Wasilla High and its Warrior mascot.
But by Saturday, the statue had been uncovered:
WASILLA - The cover has come off a controversial piece of public art at Wasilla High School.
Days after the "Warrior Within" was installed in front of the school Jan. 29, WHS Principal Amy Spargo had the 12.5-foot-high sculpture covered after fielding concerns from some students and parents that the work resembled female genitalia.

It had been covered until about 6 p.m., Friday while the school continues to work with the artists, Meadow Lakes residents Jim Dault and Shala Dobson, to educate students and the community about their artistic interpretation of the warrior spirit.

Spargo said she's putting together a committee of community members, students, parents and administrators to review the piece. In the meantime, the tarps are off in preparation for this week's parent-teacher conferences, she said.

"It was already scheduled to be uncovered for the parent-teacher conferences," Spargo said.
Dault and Dobson said Friday afternoon they didn't know about the plan to uncover their work, but that they are pleased with the development.

"I think it's great, that's what it's meant for," Dobson said. "We're very happy. That's what we wanted to have happen, and we wanted to do the presentation so they could understand the symbolism of the ‘Warrior Within.'"
I drove by on Saturday afternoon, on my way home from picking up garden supplies.  Here's what it looked like:
The Warrior Within - image by Philip Munger
 It certainly makes a statement.  According to sculptor Jim Dault, the inset resembles a Zulu warrior's shield:
"Those shields are in the same shape Zulu warriors use," he said. "A warrior's greatest battle is within himself, and for a warrior, patience has a great reward. Everyone has to answer to the warrior within themselves."
Here's a Zulu shield:

Here's a South African statue of a Zulu warrior with his shield:

A commenter at the Frontiersman noted:
I've also got to mention that I think the most ironic part of covering up the artwork is now it looks like a phallic symbol with a condom. The most ironic part of this article is the "Photo of the Day" on the next column has a Girl Scout riding a phallis with a lasso around the neck. THAT'S what should be censored!
A lot of things in nature resemble genitalia, female or male.

A collection of Willow Leaves:

An Alder Leaf:

Chinese Elm leaves:

A Diamond Willow Leaf:

A Feltleaf Willow leaf (my favorite Willow):

Quick - cover those trees before the foliage comes back!

And not just in nature.  How about in automotive design?

Mr Whitekeys uses a picture in his show that shows Colony High School's sign with the "Y" missing, so that it spells "COLON HIGH SCHOOL."

Just like junior high and high school kids don't need much help to start thinking about sex, the commenters over at The Immoral Minority's story on this don't need any prodding to relate all of this hubbub back to you-know-who, their fixation:
LMAO !!!
A vagina, they have a vagina sculpture!! Is this in honor of all the pussy the Palin family has put out over the years.


Somebody should stuff a toy baby in the opening to represent all of Sarah Palin's grandkids that were conceived at Wasilla High School during their lunch period.


The ultimate tribute to Wasilla HS most famous underage pregnant student alumni Bristol Palin.


10.06 "Was this Bristol's second job, posing for the artist?"!!!LOL. Maybe too many of the male students immediately thought of the Palin girls when they saw this? Bristol probably thnks there is nothing wrong with it, after all THAT is how she became famous. That and wine coolers in a pup tent.


Surely Sarah Palin is highly honored that Wasilla HS has a statue of her right out front.
.... and so on.

And it was just nine months ago that Wasilla High School's strangely prudish attitude to the arts was front and center -The Bohemian Rhapsody fracas.

Regarding the sculpture, the controversy, and the work's future, my friend Howard Bess has some thoughts:
The decision to uncover "Warrior Within" was also hailed by Howard Bess, a Valley community activist and Palmer Arts Council board member. The council's board met Wednesday evening to discuss what it viewed as censorship of public art.

"I'm very glad she did it," Bess said of Friday's unveiling. "It was the point of view of the board - unanimous - that the covering of it was unfortunate. As far as the artwork itself, there really needs to be public education and discussion. Good artwork will always produce both wonder and discussion. Negative comments about it should simply be seen as part of the community discussion."

While the future of "Warrior Within" is still in doubt, Bess said he believes the school should support the public process that already has concluded and leave the sculpture where it is.

"My personal hope is they leave it right where it is," he said. "The idea of removing it completely, I don't think that would be a good solution. Let the artwork speak for itself."
I taught a class at WHS for thirteen years.  Sometimes we created controversial art.  Most of it wasn't.  A parent wanted me fired for having us perform music in 1996 that predicted Rep. Vic Kohring might end up in jail some day.  She didn't succeed.  I predict the sculpture stays if people support it and its premise.

A side note - as art, the "Warrior Within" doesn't impress me at all, but I'll defend it to the hilt.


Anonymous said...

Amen. I appreciate your rational voice, Phil, and that of Reverend Bess. I, too, am not a big fan of the art, but see nothing scandalous about it, and think it should stay where it is.

baja said...

If I ever saw a vagina looking like that, I would stop what I was doing and advise her to see a doctor.

Zulu Warrior aspects in Wasilla?

Of course we know what all those Facebook pics are going to look like now...

Anonymous said...

As an art student at UAA, only last week we had a discussion about censorship in art. It was in response to a recent complaint by a faculty member about artwork in the art building. One of his chief complaints was regarding what he referred to as "a sculpture of an upside-down vagina!"My question is this: What, if anything, in the universe has provoked this apparent recent obsession, and horror among would-be censors with the vagina?

george said...

glad to see that I wasn't the only reader who found the irony in the newspaper posting a photo of the young girl riding the very phallic looking 'horsey' on the same page as the article about uncovering the vagina sculpture. Of course this is the same paper that had lead stories for two months on a lowly city councilman who left his hotel room a mess so, whada we expect?

SCA said...

Now maybe we can pay attention to the double headed dildo sculpture by the UAA Cuddy Center.