Category Archives: Personal Blog

Spain And The Art of Bringing In Tourism Dollars By Ruining Irreplaceable Art

From the country that brought you Monkey Christ now comes what I will call with absolutely no affection, “Gumby in a dress with sheep.”

This is only the most recent example of a decades long issues that has plagued Spain. So much so that a tourism industry has popped up around badly restored art. They’re doing this on purpose. As of June some were even calling for regulations to be put in place to try and stop the destruction of priceless works of art.

The restored face on a building in Valencia, Spain – The before and after courtesy of The Guardian

People are starting to take notice at the progressively more extreme botched art restorations. Art News’s Claire Selvin couldn’t help remarking on how significant the changes to the original face by the “restoration” team had been and brought up the same question that was brought up last June.

Restoration projects that leave artworks looking drastically changed have become something of a pattern in Spain in recent years.  When the Virgin Mary painting was altered twice by a furniture restorer in Valencia in June, experts revived calls for increased regulation of efforts related to the restoration of artworks.

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/restoration-spanish-sculpture-botched-1234576275/

But just how much money did the “Monkey Christ” bring in? Is it really enough to incentivize purposeful botched art restorations?

Well, quite a lot. So much so that I’m not the only one suggesting that this has become a new art movement in Spain to draw in tourism dollars. And it is threatening the survival of priceless works of historic art for the sake of social media attention. In 2012 alone the “Monkey Christ” brought in 40,000 guests and more than €50,000 for charity. The restoration artist also wanted cuts of royalties that she then went on to be partially donated to Muscular Dystrophy. While that is nice, the story gets more complicated.

A familiar face, now known to the world as Monkey Christ, greets visitors to the Santuario de Misericordia, its blurred and startled features staring down from bottles, thimbles, bookmarks, teddy bears, pens, mugs, T-shirts, mousepads, badges, fridge magnets and keyrings.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/28/how-monkey-christ-brought-new-life-to-a-quiet-spanish-town

By 2016 the town was seeing hundreds of thousands of visitors per year and receiving single donations topping the total brought in that first year. While it can be argued that this injection of money was bringing some much needed funds to the area, the question that arises is: Is Sacrificing Irreplaceable Historic Art Worth It?

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The Before, After Restoration, and After Fixing The Botched Restoration From: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/spanish-statue-st-george-undergoes-unrestoration-remove-botched-paint-job-180972481/

In 2018, Spain had a different statue botching of St. George – a saint that I only barely recall because I’m fairly certain he is one of those that may have “slain a dragon.” And that is in fact what the statue that was being restored was of – St. George Slaying A Dragon.

Now, as much as I would love to believe St. George proudly presented the head of some noble beast to his lady love and saved a village, I call bullshit. That said, there have been efforts to repair the situation. These costly “repairs” stripped off the materials used on the statue, resulting in loss of the original paint and overall worsening of the condition. The Smithsonian article explained ACRE‘s description of the egregious errors made in the restoration process:

According to a statement by ACRE, Spain’s national organization of professional art restorers, the artist applied several layers of plaster, repainted the figure, and sanded its surface, effectively erasing the entirety of its “historical footprint.” The original artist had used a unique polychrome technique. According to London’s National Gallery, Spanish sculptors of the 16th and 17th centuries carved their statues and covered them in white gesso but were prohibited from actually painting the figurines, which were later gilded and refined by specially trained artisans.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/spanish-statue-st-george-undergoes-unrestoration-remove-botched-paint-job-180972481/

One of the fascinating things to note is that the Smithsonian found out from ACRE that these pieces of art are being restored without authorization from the region’s heritage foundations and that they are technically protected artifacts. The costs to fix these botched restorations fall onto the levels of Spanish government, and thus taxpayers, if the funds exist. Sometimes there aren’t the funds for the repair. Fixing the restoration of the statue of St. George cost approximately 34,000 USD of government funds intended for Art and Culture.

While we keep laughing at these botched art restorations and making them “go viral” online, the true victims are the future generations that will never see the original works that are being destroyed for the sake of generating money from publicity to line someone’s pockets.

With Spain reopening for tourism and given how dependent their economy is on this influx of cash this is a real threat for cultural and historical preservation. So, before you decide you want to travel to see one of these pieces please think. Each time you pay to see any botched art or buy memorabilia with “bad restorations” from Spain, you’re supporting an illegal industry meant to take your money all while destroying priceless art and artifacts. The trouble with those is that once something like that is gone it really is gone forever and future generations will never be able to experience it or learn any more of the secrets it may have had to tell.


Thanks for taking the time to read this. The comments section is for you – I do moderate first time commenters to prevent trolls and spam, but once your first comment has been approved you should have no difficulty posting comments.

Thoughts On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Statue

circa 1797  english feminist writer mary wollstonecraft godwin 1759   1797, author of 'a vindication of the rights of woman' and mother of mary wollstonecraft shelley  a drawing by a s merritt after the painting by opie  photo by hulton archivegetty images

Born in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was an early feminist and I learned of her first as the mother of Mary Shelley, the mother of Science Fiction. While she was born to what many would call an abusive family by modern standards, what she experienced as childhood was common for women at the time. By a combination of being lucky, her own craftiness, and wielding her unhappiness through rationality, she gained an audience upon publishing her works.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft

That was her reality. She had the benefit, by all accounts, of being pretty enough and educated enough. She worked as a translator when she realized that being a housewife would drive her, and those around her, insane. And this lended her the opportunity to write her book, “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.”

I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft (arguing something that women are still arguing hundreds of years later)

Her arguments can be summarized here:

  • Men and women should be provided equal education in a coeducational environment as they are expected to marry each other and should thus be educated equally as well.
  • Men/those with power in society should be the primary leaders of a feminist liberation movement.
  • Women must choose rationality over sensibility (sensibility being defined as whims and emotions). This has been used to argue that her opinion was that sex and romance were distractions for women. This has also been subject to numerous criticisms.
  • Further addressed in “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men” she argues in favor of constitutional monarchy and republicanism based on its distribution of power and the negative impacts that charity has. This plays into views on the church.
  • Utilitarianism makes constant appearances in her views. This may explain part of the union between herself and her husband/fellow philosopher William Godwin.

As with all historic persons, we must consider her works in the context of her time period and life experiences. While she was considered radical for her time period, she was radical for arguing that women were capable of being creatures driven by rationality and sharing responsibilities with men as equals with independent interests in self direction. Sadly, she died 10 days after giving birth to her second child, Mary Godwin (Later, Shelley), in 1797. When I heard a memorial statue to her was going to be done by an artist I really like and everyone I know hates, things got exciting.

Don’t worry, I’m okay with people hating the art I like.

Maggi Hambling had no small feat ahead of her as she designed a statue to honor Mary Wollstonecraft. Her past works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde , Scallop (for Benjamin Britten), and so many more. She has constructed art dedicated to some of the most eccentric and extreme of individuals made famous for how their existence and identities coincidentally fell into history. I have a few favorite pieces by her including War Coffin and her paintings of the North Sea. She’s a talented artist with a very unique style.

In my opinion as a fan of her work, Hambling designs her memorial pieces with the full context of an individual’s life in mind. She works hard to include the ugliness with the beauty and as I mentioned before, Mary Wollstonecraft was gifted with a rather lovely physical form. This meant that to communicate her concept of the woman emerging into a future society as a rational being from one ruled by the senses might be a difficult design challenge when there are other creatures with penises in the room. Additionally, Hambling’s statues are interactive. Each of her sculptures is designed with considerations to their orientation in their surroundings and how each person is going to sit, touch, lay on, and feel each sculpture to interact with the memory of the person she is representing.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of her statue. It reminded me of the 35th Anniversary Edition cover of Atlas Shrugged. [I’ve been encouraged to add that this deeply bothered me because I did not at any point think I would associate feminism and anything relating to Ayn Rand at the same time. But here we are.] Admittedly, this was the first picture I saw:

Image

Then I saw more of the sculpture…

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But here’s the full statue….

Mary Wollstonecraft

The “naked lady” portion is maybe 1/8 of the total height and is in no way provocative. Why was I reminded of the cover of Atlas Shrugged? Probably the borderline brutalist take on the architecture of the human form that strips it of sexuality and focuses instead on its utilitarianism; this feels post-modernist. Yet we’re talking about an 18th century rationalist woman asking for the right to individual agency and purpose derived from the self in a way that is equal to men of equivalent status. Hmm… This actually looks spot on for the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and I can’t argue with it.

As for the amorphous blob she is standing upon? Now, that’s evocative. Stare at it long enough and you start to see human shapes emerging in sensual, borderline lewd positions. It is glorious and, depending on how creative you are, rude. The rational woman is standing atop an amorphous Akira style faceless nightmare of irrational sensuality, like a freaking epiphany waiting to be seen.

As with all of Hambling’s memorials the sculpture was constructed “for” the person based on their life and life’s works. I’m not saying I love it, but I have no qualms with the sculpture. It gets the job done and creates a thoughtful conversation piece that brings Mary Wollstonecraft’s work into the twenty-first century.


Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you find it downright offensive? All of these are okay! Feel free to leave a comment below about what you think – that space is for you and I will work to get your comment approved as quickly as possible if you have not previously commented on the website.

A Lesson Never Learned – A Poem

This poem first appeared on Curensea after being written in 2007. I have made a few minor edits.

I chose this poem based on many thoughts coming up for me over my lifetime while living in the United States. I grew up in Virginia and found it strange that I could live next to a Holocaust survivor and then move to a town with an active KKK chapter other kids at the elementary school nonchalantly talked to me about their parents being members of. My parents explained what that meant when I asked. Same with the Neo-nazi rallies in Yorktown, Virginia – you know, that place where we apparently “won the Revolutionary War”. What’s so revolutionary about it anymore now that you allow those kinds of rallies there? But Virginia did. My parents felt powerless against it because the courts ruled in their favor on the grounds of Freedom Of Speech and Freedom Of Assembly and that was used to argue for social tolerance of intolerance. Now, here we are, being asked to tolerate violence against each other as that too becomes normalized.

A statue face from St. Mary’s cemetery Missoula, MT, photo by Lo Potter

A Lesson Never Learned

It came up through the floorboards,
Zyklon B reaching forward through time
Ripping at our throats,
Forming itself around our nostrils
condensing into blue ice, after being trapped in the cold
of existence.
This depressive state of humanity
Seeming only to slumber in its death
Released the gas upon itself,
Using the world as its chamber
Many can claim their innocence
-besides-
Innocence through ignorance is the best kind
While dictators commence genocidal rampages
Using ill-earned power to rape a people
destroy their very creation of a God,
And yet, for those who are suffering:

The strongest woman I (n)ever met
sat crying at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum
She surveyed the surrounding young people
Generations too young to remember or know what
She Survived
Walking through in awe of their own misunderstandings
She looked back without a single failed memory
Her arm exposed so everyone could see:
the vining rose tattoo that grew
out of the numbers that changed her life forever


Thank you for reading this poem today. The comments section is reserved for your thoughts. Moderating is only for preventing spam/trolls – I approve as quickly as possible and approval is only needed once to post without moderation on this website.

We Are Nothing – A Poem

I first wrote this poem in 2007 in my first semester of college. The draft was the first time someone in a collegiate academic setting told me I should consider being a professional poet. I’ve never succeeded in publishing it, but those words still encourage me. Listen to your friends – let them be the voices in your head when you desperately need them.

We Are Nothing

we are nothing, but nothing –
razor-edged souls cutting through time
with a steely gasp of twilight before our instant sunset,
packaged in a plastic microwavable container with a label stating,
“just add water”
we a single individual with many minds and parts –
societal schizophrenia on a rampage.
perhaps the voice of muscle spasm can sear through your tyranny,
as you have trapped creativity and youth in oppression,
tearing them from their families
as though they were meant to be institutionalized with
bars on the windows and
locks on the doors.
Keep faith, children!
For there is always an alternative route grasping for a mind that could fathom his existence.
Outside the window is a world darkened by a starless reality,
yet lit by polluting city lights.
Red, Green, Blue
Straining for that chance to say, “Coca-Cola” in Times Square.
But this –
this is nothing.


Please feel free to comment your personal experiences openly and freely below- I reserve the comments section for that.