NEW YORK, 7 April
2006—In one of the more incongruous entanglements of threads in
American pop culture to come along in a while, sculptor Daniel Edwards,
has delivered a sculpture of a nude Britney Spears giving birth to
her son Sean, as what is being called a Monument to Pro-Life.
It's hard not to be cynical in the face of the
breathless touting of this piece and its backstory. "Britney provides
inspiration for those struggling with the ‘right choice’," said
Edwards, recipient of a 2005 Bartlebooth award from London’s The Art
"She was number one with
Google last year, with good reason— people are inspired by the beauty of
a pregnant woman." (But does this explanation ring true for anyone?
And since when does featuring in the Google
make one a "right choice" as an inspiration
The dedication of the life-sized statue celebrates the recent birth of
Spears’ baby boy, Sean, and applauds her decision of placing family before
career. "A superstar at Britney’s young age having a child is rare in
today’s celebrity culture. This dedication honors Britney for the rarity
of her choice and bravery of her decision," said gallery co-director,
Daniel Edwards: Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean
Photo courtesy of Capla Kesting Fine Art
The statue is offered up as "the first Pro-Life
monument to birth" by the American anti-abortion movement, and the gallery
hosting the statute's dedication, Capla Kesting Fine Art in the
Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, is said to be seeking a permanent
home for the statue in time for Mother's Day. (The Manhattan Right To
Life Committee has pitched in as well, making the
trek across the Williamsburg Bridge to provide materials
The strangeness of the project is undeniable. A
sort of mise-en-abime with a parodic Möbius Stripper
twist seems to
be the mode of the day here.
The sculptor, it is said, took as
his model a Madame Tussaud's wax figure of Spears doing a
stripper's pole dance. And the pose is some ludicrous
pictorial out-take: Spears is nude, on all fours, on a
bearskin rug of all things, and described in the press release as
"seductively posed... back arched, pelvis thrust upwards."
Daniel Edwards: Monument to Pro-Life: The
Birth of Sean Preston
Photo courtesy of Capla Kesting Fine Art
Gallery co-director, David Kesting offers up that the artist also
studied a bearskin rug (one from Canada, no less) "to convey the
commemoration of the traditional bearskin rug baby picture" (which,
with a baby invariably posed nude, was already a parody of
the cheesecake staple).
Of course, the Spears is no longer the writhing nymph
we know—the new model, with matronly "lactiferous breasts and protruding naval
[sic]" as well as "...widened hips for birthing,"
could hardly squeeze into her old costumes.
There are limits to the quest for authenticity, though.
Edwards denies having borrowed from a rumored bootleg birth video
of Spears (which, if it exists and is in the wild, seems bound to show up
or Google Video
before long). The statue's crowning glory (the skull of young Sean
Preston, just starting to emerge from his mother's birth canal) must,
therefore, have sprung mostly from his imagination. (The released
press photos omit this image, leaving the interested spectator to make his
or her way to the opening on 7 April at the gallery)
The whole affair leaves the mind clanging with
cognitive dissonance, resulting from the collision of elements: the teen
idol celebrity, the conservative anti-abortion movement, the explicit
(yet sanitized) representation of nudity and birth in a culture so
tittilated by the former and, often, squeamish about the latter.
Perhaps Edwards has a stronger
sense of irony than one usually associates with anti-abortion
activists. Perhaps he (and Manhattan sophisticate right-to-lifers)
take some pleasure in transforming the erstwhile heiress to the Material
Girl into a new icon of Madonna-with-child.
As a sculpture, as such, Monument is
nearly impossible to judge, because the buzz around it will eclipse the
sculpture itself. Monument to Pro-Life
as a project seems primarily calculated to
attract the attention of the celebrity-mad mainstream media of
the United States, and to generate maximum attention for the
artist and gallery. (It also smacks a bit of 'search engine
marketing," working buzzwords into a Web page in order
to draw upon Google's power to send torrents
of visitors.) Edwards, Capla and Kesting are so
cleary aware of that aspect of the situation that the
whole thing seems crass.)
Whatever its merits as sculpture, and however
serious the intended political gesture, a simple April Fool's
press release could have achieved much the same effect, with far less
effort. Perhaps Monument
should be returned to the abyss from which it burst
forth into the world.
Monument to Pro-Life is on view from 7 - 23
April 2006 with a reception for the dedication on 7
April from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Capla Kesting Fine Art, 121 Roebling
Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. Gallery hours are 1:00 – 6:00 pm Thursday thru
Sunday, or by appointment. The gallery can be reached at www.caplakesting.com or by
phone at 646-932-5687.
C. Antonio Romero is the Nouveau editor of