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National Park Service Protects The Turf, Says No Naked Woman Statue on the Mall

by Countable | 10.27.17

What’s the story?

The MeToo movement may have temporarily taken over popular media, but a 45-foot tall naked woman standing on the National Mall, 24-hours a day for four months, with witnesses and allies? Right between the White House and the Washington Monument? That was too much symbolic liberation to fit within the rules of the National Park Service.

Why does it matter?

An annual D.C. Burning Man-type festival, "Catharsis on the Mall", was planning to put a 45-foot statue of a naked woman on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the White House. The sculpture is entitled “R-Evolution”.

The National Park Service denied the permit for the statue installation on Wednesday. Despite a previous height variance issued to the project (with the statue’s base it would have been two feet over the maximum height of 45 feet allowed on the Mall), the permit was denied based on the height requirement.

The Washington Post reports that Rick Obernesser, acting regional director of the Park Service, told the group that the variance never should have been allowed in the first place. Also, that the statue would potentially damage the turf during the lengthy installation, which was 86 days longer than the usual 5 day maximum permitted.

Park Service representatives also commented to the Post that there were concerns the statue would detract from the view of the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. No building within the city limits is allowed to be taller. Or, it seems, to be less than 10 percent as tall.

Thirty smaller temporary art installations were approved for the festival, which will proceed November 10-12 on the proposed site.

Organizers had raised over $100,000 to transport and raise the statue on the proposed site, as well as provide a 24-hour vigil at its base for the duration of the proposed four month installation. Marco Cochrane, a sculptor associated with the artist collective that constructed the statue, which was originally installed at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City in 2015 said he didn’t realize the full significance of the proposed installation on the Mall until he actually stood on the site:

"This is where the statements of what America is about are made.”

For now, a four story naked woman standing, open-handed and unashamed, between two of the most powerful symbols of American democracy is not a statement about America that the Park Service is willing to permit.

Want to hear what organizers were planning for yourself? Here’s a promotional video for the project.

What do you think?

Would this installation have been a timely call for equal rights for women or for open-heartedness in our national dialogue? Or do you think a 45-foot naked woman statue is inappropriate on the National Mall? Is the Park Service’s denial part of a national denial of women’s humanity or simply a logistical concern about visuals, grass and existing regulations? Is this a denial of free speech rights, or is the statue just too big?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Marilyn Rutten via Twitter )

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