By now you've heard all about it. Artist Seward Johnson has constructed a 26 foot tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe. The sex symbol towers over tourists on Michigan Avenue. Her head won't be unveiled until Friday, for now it's covered by a plastic bag.
Of course, the Monroe sculpture has been met with all kinds of reactions. The majority of the people I spoke with seemed to love it, all stopping to snap a picture of the larger than life figure.
The Chicago Tribune has more about Johnson, who is becoming a regular to Pioneer Court....
"Johnson, an octogenarian, is known for placing ginormous pop art icons in public spaces, including twice previously at Pioneer Court. Many will remember his massive "American Gothic" homage, "God Bless America," which in December 2008 captured Grant Wood" href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/arts-culture/grant-wood-PEHST002142.topic">Grant Wood's iconic farmer and daughter standing stoically with suitcases at their feet, as if they were merely stopping through Chicago en route back to the farm. The prior summer, a 20-foot-tall "King Lear" graced the plaza. Both sculptures departed after lengthy stints (the goth couple hung out for more than a year), but not before drawing thousands of snapshots — and opinions — from passers-by."
Of course, Marilyn Monroe bent over exposing her panties while the world walks underneath will be met with some critics. Among them is ChicagoNow blogger Abraham Ritchie, who thinks the work is "creepy" and "sexist".....
"This sculpture caters to cheap titillation, titillation that is in itself pathetic. By making Monroe's panties visible, Johnson encourages voyeurism. When I visited it recently there were no less than three men taking pictures of Monroe's rear. If a clumsily rendered giantess puts wind in your sails, you have issues."
One could easily apply Laura Mulvey's Male Gaze feminist film theory to the sculpture. By positioning Monroe in a way that encourages all to look up, it puts passersby in the dominating position of the heterosexual male. You might say Monroe is clearly welcoming their looks, but other feminists would argue that she's simply conforming to societal norms created to benefit male interests.
What do you think? I was skeptical at first, but the more time I spent walking around Miss Monroe and speaking with people admiring her, the more Seward's latest Pop Art piece began to grow on me.
Maybe next time he'll decide to select an icon from a Chicago-set film. How about an enormous Cameron Frye?
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