Erect in Public

Bear Eats Man is a sculpture by Thordis Adalsteinsdottir depicting a bear made of shingled wood biting into the neck of a spray foam concrete man statue. The sculpture had been up in Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens for less than a year before the community raised some concerns.
Art interpretation is in the eye of the beholder, and even though Bear Eats Man was meant as commentary on the violent interactions between man and nature, the man “with eyes wide open, nude and in state of adrenaline-fed surprise,” some felt the work depicted more of a sexual interaction between a man and beast.

The New York Times wrote that “critics did not interpret the animal’s grip on the man — its paws gently resting on the man’s hips — as a bear hug. Moreover, the man appears to be experiencing sensations other than fear: He has an erection.”

That’s right. Apparently Bear Eats Man was seen by many as Bear Sodomizes Man. Some going insofar as claiming “bestiality sanctioned at Queens park” because of the indecent public sculpture.

So the solution was to put up a wood fence around the loving couple. At least they didn’t take it down or chop off the statue’s woodie. I could go on about censorship and America’s prudish ways, but this whole thing is rather laughable. To be frank, the sculpture is not that good, nor is its message necessarily enlightening for kids playing at the park. It’s the hard cock that made it interesting.

In fact, the new wood fence around it adds a layer of dialogue to the display. Why is this bear attack being fenced off? It’s as if we’re caging wild “nature” (the bear, the erection) from the rest of the peaceful man-made park. Perhaps that was the artist’s intention all along, to create a work of public art that would elicit a physically constructed response from its intended audience.

I would have just loved to have heard the conversations at the Queens Park and Recreations Department though.


Oscar Raymundo
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