JUDGING BY the sound and fury from certain quarters directed against the Laura Facey-Cooper sculpture of two nude figures - one male, the other female - recently unveiled at Emancipation Park, could it be that prurience, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder?
The French expression honi soit qui mal y pense (evil to him who thinks evil) might well apply to the criticisms levelled against the sculpture, criticism so violent that perhaps it disguises a deep, unconscious guilt in the psyche of those who express shock at the sensuality of the figures rather than delight in the symbolism the artist envisioned.
Carved out of eight-foot blocks of Styrofoam from which moulds had to be made for the final bronze casting in Jamaica, a feat in itself, we think that, on any dispassionate and fair judgement, the work is one of splendid craftsmanship and obvious emotional strength. Its design won first place in an open competition and we see no reason to denigrate the opinion of the judges.
If the objection is to nudity per se, we feel obliged to point out that representation of the naked human figure has been an art form since the beginning of time. Cave man drew pictures of naked men and women on the walls of caves. Egyptians decorated their tombs and pyramids with nude figures and the Greeks believed that the undressed human body represented the ultimate concept of perfection. We wonder at the logic of those who saw nothing wrong with mass nude weddings in Jamaica, indeed championed them, but who are now quick to condemn the Facey-Cooper sculpture as obscene.
As a religious symbol, the male nude was used by Michelangelo when he painted his magnificent Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in Rome, its iconography considerably more explicit than the Emancipation Park male nude. Even a Pope was laughed to scorn when he suggested that Adam should be adorned with a loincloth. Why have so many Jamaican visitors to Rome stood in awe of Michelangelo's masterpiece but refuse to respect the work of a gifted Jamaican artist?
The use of nude or semi-nude figures as symbols of nationhood has a long and honourable history. Eugene Delacroix's 'Liberty Guiding the People', painted in 1830 to celebrate the French Revolution, features a bare-breasted peasant woman holding up the Tricolor. The Statue of Liberty, a draped female figure, is the quintessential symbol of American national pride.
In assessing the worth of the Emancipation Park sculpture we hope that over time viewers will find it possible to elevate their eyes to the expression on the faces of the couple, an expression of spiritual yearning and hope which conveys the essential meaning of the monument as a symbol of our emancipation from slavery. In the meantime we urge restraint and more mature reflection on the artistic merits of the work.
THE OPINIONS ON THIS PAGE, EXCEPT FOR THE ABOVE, DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE GLEANER.