The power of image trumps the artist's intent.
Apparently, we’re not done with the controversies surrounding Wall Street’s Fearless Girl statue just yet.
On Monday, artist Alex Gardega placed a sculpture of a dog, lifting its leg to pee, next to the bronze figure of the girl. Gardega, whose Pissing Pug (yes, official title) was removed after a few hours, told the New York Post that he created the dog to protest the “corporate nonsense” of Fearless Girl, which was installed by an asset management firm. “It has nothing to do with feminism, and it is disrespect to the artist that made the bull. That bull has integrity,” said Gardega, referring to Charging Bull, the iconic statue that stands across from the girl.
Arturo Di Modica, the artist who made the bull, has also objected to Fearless Girl, saying that the placement of the statue unfairly changes the meaning of his work.
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Not surprisingly, some viewers are calling the image of a dog peeing on a young girl misogynist. And while Gardega maintains that his statue is “pro-feminism,” I don’t buy it. It’s valid to critique Fearless Girl as a corporate marketing tactic—and one sponsored by a firm that does not yet have its own house in order on gender equity, no less. But for a visual artist to dismiss the symbolism of the image he created strikes me as naive. Gardega’s intent aside, his statue sends viewers a clear message about bold little girls: This is what they deserve.
Di Modica, the bull’s creator, objects to the placement of Fearless Girl because he believes it influences the way observers see his statue, distracting from his original intent. Similarly, Gardega may want viewers to see his installation as a critique of corporate appropriation of feminism, but given the way our society treats little girls—and the women they become—I suspect most viewers won’t be able to get beyond the image of yet another degraded woman.