A bronze statue of first lady Melania Trump was unveiled this week near her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia, after arsonists burned a wooden version in July.
Artist Brad Downey, who debuted the revamp on Tuesday, told CNN that he had always intended to make a bronze edition of the first lady’s statue for use in an institutional setting, but decided to use the bronze version as a replacement for the wooden one that was vandalized on July 4 and now features as an exhibit in the Slovenian town of Kroper.
“I didn’t think it was a good ending for the artwork, I didn’t think it was a good ending for the community,” Downey said regarding the charred wooden statue.
Downey further said the local community supports the statue, which he said was a “donation” to the small town with a population of approximately 5,000.
Some have claimed that Downey or his surrogates perpetrated the arson attack on the wooden statue, but he denied such allegations to CNN, saying, “I didn’t do it. I loved it.”
Explaining he had tried to prevent statues of the burned statue from circulating, Downey said, “If I’d been it I would have let people take photos of it. I removed it quickly so it didn’t enter a dark narrative.”
Downey had previously told CNN that his inspiration for creating the likeness of the first lady was because of President Donald Trump’s “anti-immigration narrative.” He claimed that the fact he married an immigrant contradicted his platform that sought to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the United States.
As The Daily Wire reported on the wooden edition:
A wooden sculpture of first lady Melania Trump that was carved with a chain saw into a living linden tree about five miles from her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia was set on fire on July 4.
Brad Downey, the American conceptual artist who commissioned blue-collar pipe layer and amateur woodworker Ales Zupevc to create the sculpture, informed Reuters the wooden sculpture had been set afire, adding, “I want to know why they did it.” He also allegedly filed a police report but strangely said he would like to interview the perpetrators for a film he is making.
“Rising nine feet from the trunk, the statue is blocky, waving with a hand more akin to a paw. Its eyes are bulging ovals beneath a near unibrow, its nose a pudgy blob. Save for its powder-blue Inauguration Day garb, it looks little like the first lady,” The Washington Post reported in July 2019.
Because Downey, who was born in Kentucky but now lives in Berlin, Germany, has a reputation for pranks, people were unsure if the sculpture was in admiration or mockery for the first lady. Berlin-based curator Lukas Feireiss told the Post, “I think that’s the beauty of it, that nobody can answer the question: Is it serious? Is it a joke? That ambiguity is the strength of his work, the fact that we can’t really figure it out. That’s always, to me at least, that’s always the power of it.”
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