Why Are People Going Crazy over this Public Art Sculpture?

Will it survive public scrutiny or take flight?

Donna Dodson, Seagull Cinderella.

Artist Donna Dodson’s Seagull Cinderella is an eight-foot-high sculpture that is causing an outsize reaction among some residents of the Massachusetts city of New Bedford.

The figure, which was installed this summer for the annual Seaport Art Walk, presents a hybrid bird and human form that inspired one skeptical observer on Twitter to declare, “Yo that’s a Seagull with Boobs.”

Local critics in the city of 95,000 residents have found “whimsy” in the sculpture. But they might not have the last word. Nearly 400 people have signed a recent petition to remove the work from the site. Organizer Raymond Concannon organized the petition, calling the sculpture “ridiculous” and saying that it “makes our city look like a joke.”

“Good art is part of the New Bedford culture,” he goes on. “Tacky is part of tacky… and this sculptor is from BOSTON.” (Boston is about 60 miles to the north of New Bedford, and residents would like to keep it that way.)

While Concannon says that the work evokes only “mild disgust or juvenile humor” in most viewers, and others see it as “ugly” and “stupid,” additional signatories believe there are more sinister, if unspecified, motives.

“Art shouldn’t be contrived for political or social engineering purposes,” writes Paul P. “It should be beautiful.”

But debate rages, even among those who have signed the petition.

Says Justin M.,

It is a terrible thing to try to silence an artist’s voice. In this time of extreme divisiveness we should be weary [sic] of anyone who would seek to censor or destroy art. Art is meant to challenge and to evoke strong emotions. Art is not experienced universally the same nor should it be. Do not let the voice of ignorance, destroy the freedom of expression or you may find they come [for] you next.

Avi J. takes a different tack, and tersely dismisses the petition: “I love this statue, my son loves it, everyone that doesnt suck loves it.”

Even its defenders seem lukewarm, however.

“Keep the statue it’s nice,” writes Bill N.

Kathy S. suggests an alternative: “I thought we were the Whaling City, put a whale with boobs [or] a skirt at least that would be a little more understanding to the city.”

On view through October, the Seaport Art Walk’s outdoor exhibition, “Cultural Aspects,” complements Dodson’s show “Avian Heroines,” on view at Colo Colo Gallery in New Bedford.

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