A seven-foot tall bronze sculpture of Medusa was unveiled in Collect Pond Park on Tuesday, across from the New York County Criminal Court in Lower Manhattan. A collaboration between Medusa With The Head Project (MWTH) and New York City Parks, Medusa With The Head of Perseus is meant to question Medusa’s portrayal and narrative in Greek mythology and reimagine an inverted narrative.
Before the unveiling, the sculpture was covered by a green cloth, a symbol for the pro-choice movement in Argentina where the sculpture’s creator Luciano Garbati is from. The sculpture was then unveiled by Garbati’s children. Garbati seeks to change the traditional narrative of Medusa by portraying her in a somber moment of self-defense, holding the head of her slayer. According to the organizers of the sculpture, Medusa With The Head of Perseus has been deliberately sited across the street from the courthouse where “high profile abuse cases, including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial.”
Medusa is presented in Greek mythology as a monster who was originally a maiden in the temple of Athena. She was stalked and raped by Poseidon and brought the rage of Athena, who cursed her with a head of hair consisting of snakes and a gaze that has the power to turn everyone into stone. Medusa was eventually slain and beheaded by the hero Perseus who used her head as a trophy. The original story is commemorated in bronze with Perseus with the Head of Medusa, a 16th-century Florentine sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini that today stands in Piazza della Signoria in Florence.
Green cloth symbolizes the pro-choice movement in Argentina.
“I always had this particular version of Cellini in my mind. And reading about the myths, I felt that it would be interesting to depict the myth from Medusa’s point of view,” Garbati told Untapped New York at the opening event. Constructing his sculpture in contrast to Cellini’s, Garbati asks the question: “How can a triumph be possible if you are defeating a victim?” Medusa was the victim of sexual violence, but instead of achieving justice, she was banished and punished for the crime in which she was a victim of. “Rape brings shame to a woman first, and to a family,” said Bek Anderson, the founder of MWTH, during an interview with Untapped New York. “Women used to be murdered for being raped because they were no longer valuable as an asset. And we’re still living with that guilt, with that shame.”
Medusa Sculpture stands across New York County Criminal Court where high profile abusers were tried.
Garbati made the original Medusa sculpture in 2008. He posted photos of it on social media in 2018, at the height of Me Too movement and the year the Argentine Senate rejected a bill that would fully decriminalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The photos went viral, and the sculpture became a symbol of resistance for women. “Nobody knew at the time what I was thinking, or even if I was a male or a woman doing sculpture,” Garbati said. “I feel honored. I have been receiving lots of messages from women, sharing their emotions.”
Garbati then received a call from Anderson, who helped him to produce a bronze version of the original sculpture and choose a place in New York where the new sculpture would stand. The two proposed the project to the city’s Parks Department but were looking for alternatives at the same time in case of rejection. Their concern was alleviated when the proposal was accepted and approved. “When a work of art is powerful, it takes on a life of its own,” Anderson said. “We like to say Medusa is in charge. We think she wanted to be here. She wanted to be in the world, and we’re just vessels in the right place at the right time to facilitate that. She’s a goddess, and she’s on a mission.”
Medusa With The Head of Perseus will be on view from October 14, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Next, check out 10 New Public Art Installations in NYC October 2020