How a Medusa Sculpture From a Decade Ago Became #MeToo Art
When artist Luciano Garbati made his sculpture of Medusa holding Perseus’ severed head — an inversion of the centuries-old myth — feminism was not what he had in mind.
He wasn’t thinking of the #MeToo movement either: Garbati had created the work in 2008, nearly a decade before the movement went mainstream.
Garbati, an Argentine artist with Italian roots, was inspired by a 16th-century bronze: Benvenuto Cellini’s “Perseus With the Head of Medusa.” In that work, a nude Perseus holds up Medusa’s head by her snaky mane. Garbati conceived of a sculpture that could reverse that story, imagining it from Medusa’s perspective and revealing the woman behind the monster.
On October 13th, Garbati’s sculpture — “Medusa With the Head of Perseus” — was reimagined as a symbol of triumph for victims of sexual assault, when it was unveiled in lower Manhattan, just across the street from the criminal courthouse on Centre Street.
A news release advertised the statue as an “icon of justice,” noting that the towering, nearly 7-foot-tall Medusa stood across from the building where men accused of sexual assault during the #MeToo movement were prosecuted, including Harvey Weinstein, who had been convicted of two felony sex crimes there in February.
Standing in the center of Collect Pond Park, Medusa — her gaze low and intense — holds a sword in her left hand and Perseus’ head in her right. The head was designed after the artist himself — a convenient model.
In his application to the city’s Art in the Parks program, which reviews proposals for public art installations like this one, Garbati noted that Medusa had been raped by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena, according to the myth. As punishment, Athena turned her wrath on Medusa, transforming her hair into snakes. The application stated that the story had “communicated to women for millennia that if they are raped, it is their fault.”
At the unveiling in the park, where the statue will stand until the end of April, Garbati talked about the thousands of women who had written to him about the sculpture. Many saw the image as cathartic, he said.
文／Julia Jacobs 譯／莊蕙嘉、核稿／樂慧生