Boynton Beach Art Advisory Bd. Approves Controversial Sculpture
The Boynton Beach Art Advisory Board approved putting up a fifteen-foot sculpture by an award-winning artist that has many scratching their heads, saying, is this art? The “Harmony” statue appears to be a vaguely Asian-looking harlequin clown, holding what appears to be an orchestra conductor’s baton in one hand and a musical note in the other while sitting on a ball. Some see it as cute and funny. Some see it as ugly. Others see it as a nonbinary, demonic monstrosity, with what appears to be a scar where breasts would typically be and a c-section scar on its stomach—the stuff of children’s nightmares. A three-two majority vote approved the statue, which will go up at the PBS building, and now the city commission will have to vote on it for final approval.
South Florida PBS plans to build a ten million dollar cultural arts center and to place “Harmony,” a five hundred thousand dollar sculpture, in its garden. The Cornelia T. Bailey Cultural Arts Center, located adjacent to the South Florida PBS studios, is described as an exciting achievement for South Florida PBS because of what it will offer the South Florida community, especially the City of Boynton Beach and neighboring cities.
Art is in the eye of the beholder, as evidenced by social media reactions to “Harmony.” Residents expressed both delight and disgust over this project. Those who like it describe the diversity and inclusivity they feel the sculpture represents. Others see a monstrosity that’s more of a political statement than anything else.
The creator of “Harmony” is Patti Warashina (born 1940). On Wikipedia, she is described as an American artist known for her imaginative ceramic sculptures. Her works are in the collection of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Warashina’s’ work is often humorous and includes “clay figures placed in imagined environments that show her subversive thinking. She uses sculpture to explore such themes as the human condition, feminism, and political and social topics.”
The debate about the sculpture grew heated during the art advisory meeting. One board member said some Asian people had told her they found the sculpture offensive. Another board member, Ace Tilton Ratcliff, who describes herself on the website bitchmedia.org as a “nonbinary, queer, disabled writer, artist, and accessibility consultant,” responded angrily because a white person was expressing an opinion.” “They” were shut down quickly, and the debate continued, ultimately leading to the approval of the sculpture.
Florida Jolt called former Boynton Beach Commissioner David Katz for his take on the project. He pointed out that you can’t reject art based on personal opinions and preferences. If it falls within the guidelines and codes of the city, a yes vote is what must happen. When asked if he saw a nonbinary creature or something demonic, he said, “Not at all.”
I wouldn’t buy it. It’s ugly and weird, but that’s all I see, nothing unusual. I see other art around the city that I don’t like, but that’s just an opinion. When voting, you must be for or against something for the right reasons, and personal taste isn’t the right reason. This is a nothing burger. ~ Former Commissioner David Katz
Art is subjective. What you see when you look at a piece and the emotion it provokes is personal. The question is, what will the residents see when they look at “Harmony?” Now it’s up to the Boynton Beach commissioners to vote. Let’s hope their decision is a harmonious one for the city.
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