Monday, February 20, 2012

Wasilla High School "Vagina" Sculpture Generates Mixed Emotions, But Critics More Upset Over $100,000 "One Percent For Art" Price Tag

Update April 16th 2013: The sculpture was eventually uncovered and remains on campus to this day; the controversy has died.

Screenshot of sculpture
A controversial sculpture at Wasilla High School has been covered up by school officials after a number of parents and students decided it looked too much like a vagina. The stone and concrete sculpture, crafted by Jim Dault and Shala Dobson of Meadow Lakes over a period of nine months, was named "Warrior Within", and is designed to fit in with the school's motif along with its nickname, the Wasilla Warriors. While the primary story was published by the Mat-Su Frontiersman, the Anchorage Daily News (316 comments) also ran it, as well as the Drudge Report.

Before installation, the sculpture was fully vetted by a One Percent For Art program committee and approved by the Mat-Su School District before work began. The state launched the One Percent For Art program in 1975, and it requires the expenditure of one percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork. The sculpture features oblong shields, one made of aluminum and another of bronze, which are emblazoned with warrior symbolism; it was installed on January 29th, 2012.

But three days later, Wasilla High School Principal Amy Spargo decided to cover the sculpture with tarp after receiving complaints from students and parents. Some decided it looked like a vagina. So Spargo decided to revisit the issue of whether the art is best suited for display at a high school. She's also concerned that vandals might damage the artwork; I could just see some miscreants trying to superglue hair around the sculpture in the middle of the night as a joke.

Spargo said she plans to convene another committee that includes students, parents, staff and school administration to examine the art project. Also, the artists will give a presentation at the high school on February 24th to educate students about the symbolism in their art. The March 2008 edition of ArtSceneAK indicates that Jim Dault and Shala Dobson have previously created pieces with a sexual connotation, including Forbidden Fruit and Fossil Fig. Dobson claimed surprise at the resemblance of Forbidden Fruit to certain female anatomical characteristics.

Public Reaction: 57 comments have been posted to the main story in the Frontiersman so far. Over two-thirds of the comments are negative. Of the critics, the majority are concerned about the $100,000 price tag; some suggest the money could have been better spent on homeless students in the Valley. Here's a sampling of some of the comments that bring out interesting points (after the jump):

JimT posted at 12:36 pm on Sat, Feb 18, 2012:
This is a beautiful piece of ART! Teenagers think EVERYTHING looks like sex organs. If anyone took a nano second to read the inscription, you would know exactly what the sculpture symbolizes! I am certain that the powers that be who commissioned and approved this art NEVER thought of it as "female genitalia" until a bunch of high school students (whose brains are not fully formed until they reach the age of 25) childishly whined to their collective parents about the "vagina" they saw in school that day! " Biily...Suzy... what did you did in school today?" "Oh , nothing. But I did see a vagina on the school lawn as I was walking into the building." Get a life, people!! If any of the "art critic" students ever peeked in the Native Heritage Museum in Anchorage, they might actually see that a shield is not a vagina! Sounds like a misprint in their biology books!

coldalaskantoo posted at 10:16 pm on Fri, Feb 17, 2012:
Maybe if our society wasn't so inundated with sex and profanity- in the news, on tv shows, even commercials- our community (parents and children) could see something besides "female genitalia" in a piece of art. BTW I was Shocked to see this as the Top Story of the newspaper. PS I took a pic of some clouds last summer, I thought it looked like a heart but my husband said it looks like butt cheeks. Vote on my facebook page.

matsumom posted at 4:34 pm on Fri, Feb 17, 2012:
What the picture above doesn't show is the glowing red lights that clearly outline the body part in question at night when this statue is in its glory!

This has become a distraction for the student body and the administration. Let's move moving it out. [Ed. Note: This point was brought out nowhere else, and it could be the main reason why people decided it looked like a vagina.]

kaigun posted at 10:00 am on Fri, Feb 17, 2012:
"As artists, Dobson and Dault say they have a fondness for the Percent For Art program..."

I'll bet they do, oh I bet they do. $100,000(!!) for that ugly, uninspiring lump? Nice racket if you can get in on it. Play the taxpayers for suckers and laugh all the way to the bank. Why not? With Percent for "Art", the trough will always be full!

Get rid of the Percent for "Art" program. Find some private citizen or institution willing to pay that amount of money for abstract garbage. I'm sure they're out there.

Oh, and forget the genitalia idiocy - that's so stupid it's painful. The real outrage is that the taxpayers got taken to the cleaners.

CaseyKatchinska posted at 2:34 am on Fri, Feb 17, 2012:
Everyone needs to realize that this artwork is in front of a high school, where teenagers go to school. The target audience of this artwork is immature, so of course they are going to see female genatalia. You can "educate" the students all you want about it, but they see what they see. Are they going to educate everyone at every school? Because, more than likely, it will be students from a different school that vandalize the artwork. If the majority of students and teachers believe that the artwork should be removed from the school, then it should be. It is their school and it should be their decision on what sits in front of the entrance. I believe Mrs. Spargo did the right thing in covering up the artwork. The thing that blows my mind is that $100,000 was spent on this. Unbelievable.


  1. Art can be beautiful, appropriate for the public, and slightly resemble a vagina all at the same time. Just because it has a similar shape as the vagina does not mean that it is sexual in an offensive way, but rather a beautiful representation of the female body. Isn't femininity beautiful? So why isn't the vagina? Besides, there are plenty of sculptures, towers, and fountains that are phallic, and nobody throws a fit about those. This sculpture is not an outright representation of a vagina, it merely bears a vague resemblance.

    1. But it sure is worthless as art.

  2. One per cent for art. And there is nothing but crap posing as art. In Portland, Oregon we have large stones sitting on top of posts. We have short round pillars of stone at the entrance to the Justice Building. Must give you a preview of what you are going to get. In years past many many arches made of stainless steel have shown up all over town. No art in any of it.