In 2009, Calgary had the honour of receiving the famous sculpture, A Girl, by Australian-born Ron Mueck to display in the Glenbow Museum. This was a pretty big deal for Calgary since the exhibit created a lot of buzz and was displayed in some major cities around the world such as in Scotland, UK and Victoria, Australia. The exhibit is quite large being five meters in length and one meter in width and that is done deliberately in order to represent the duality of the trauma and miracle of childbirth. The artist’s intentions were to stir emotions and encourage his viewers to consider the human body in a new light and to reveal one’s humble beginnings (100 Masterpieces: National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (2015)). This truly unique piece, with its beautiful detail and confrontational nature, needs to be advertised in some form in order to raise awareness for the exhibit.
Giving birth to a newborn baby will always be one of the most beautiful experiences in this life. Those who have held a baby will often say that it is such a surreal experience and it is often hard to believe something so tiny and innocent has been brought into the world. Ron Mueck did a phenomenal job of creating this piece with a great attention to detail and mimicking the raw nature of a newborn baby. Even though this artistic piece provokes a lot of emotion and thought, I can see why Calgary Transit was not completely comfortable placing a giant image of the exhibit on side of their buses.
Ultimately, this is a bare human body on display in a very innocent form of a baby. As a piece of art, I fully understand how this large exhibit can produce feelings of vulnerability and contemplation but putting it on the side of a bus can take away from the true beauty and essence of it. Generally, people tend to go to museums to experience feelings of self-reflection and provoke new thoughts, and this exhibit will definitely do that, but having a giant image of the exhibit on a bus may be seen as offensive by those who belong to various cultures and religions. Depending on the viewer’s values, background and experiences, the nude baby could have been taken offensively especially to those who come from conservative cultures. Furthermore, citizens of Calgary would have also been confused by the image due to lack of context. When a bus passes by, you are most likely to only catch the image and nothing else to make sense of it, thus risking association with even more controversial topics such as abortion. Canada is known for being an accommodating and accepting nation, especially Calgary, and I’m sure we’d all like to keep these values. Even though an important part of our identity as a nation is to encourage art and freedom of expression, it is also an important part of our values to cater to everyone, especially in this instance.
It is important to also acknowledge the presence of children and how they might have reacted to seeing such a hard-hitting image. We as adults may understand the value and essence of art, but children would have most likely not understood what the image represents. There was a big chance it would’ve induced feelings of distress and discomfort in young children. Another group of people we also must keep in mind are those who have experienced trauma in relation to stillbirths, miscarriages, infertility etc. Viewing this image unexpectedly would have triggered unwanted feelings of hurt and undesired reminders of their painful experiences. As much as this image would have provoked deep and contemplative thoughts, it could have also provoked unwelcomed thoughts for some.
Exhibits like these should be displayed to individuals by choice and not unexpectedly since a sculpture of a nude, newborn baby girl could have been seen as problematic to many depending on their background and experiences. Art is an important aspect of culture and mindfulness, and it is important to encourage individuals to interact with various types of art with confrontational meanings. I really do believe that it would have been a great idea if this exhibit were to be promoted in a more targeted manner such as at other art museums in order to promote the exhibit yet still consider everyone’s feelings at the same time. Everyone may interpret art in different ways, but we all agree that no one would have wanted to unintentionally offend or hurt any one of their fellow Calgarians. In conclusion, as beautiful as the sculpture really is, people should be free to choose whether they would like to interact with this piece of art and embrace its artistic value rather than unexpectedly seeing it while walking on the streets of Calgary or using transit.
For more information:
100 Masterpieces: National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (2015). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/94045/girl
‘A Girl’ [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/multimedia/floortalk/ron-mueck-a-girl