An eight-foot sculpture of a horned female fused to a lotus flower with what appear to be tentacles has been erected above a state courthouse in New York City. The statue joins nine others portraying historical lawgivers, each representing the world's purportedly great legal systems.
The 53-year-old Pakistani-American responsible for the golden monster, Shahzia Sikander, told
the New York Times, "She is a fierce woman and a form of resistance in a space that has historically been dominated by patriarchal representation."
According to Sikander's "artist" statement
, she is also trying to capture with her graven image the "spirit" that seeks abortion's legalization across the United States.
What are the details?
The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court — the state's intermediate court of appeals — took possession of the courthouse built by architect James Brown Lord at Madison Avenue and 25th Street in 1900. The builders stood ten honored lawmakers atop this marble alcazar, including the biblical Moses, French King Louis IX, Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great, and Iranian religious figure Zoraster.
City Journal reported
that the tenth figure, Mohammad, sculpted by Mexican artist Charles Albert Lopez, came down in 1955 after Egyptian, Indonesian, and Pakistani ambassadors to the U.N. complained, citing Islamic prohibitions against representations of their prophet. The State Department acquiesced.
Rather than erect another honored judge frozen in stone, the city's public works commissioner at the time, Frederick Zurmuhlen, simply shifted around all of the remaining statues.
Sikander contends that her "figure is not replacing anyone or canceling anyone." Nevertheless, her statue "NOW" is effectively taking the place of Mohammad.
Sikander noted that the seeming tentacles fusing the statue to its base are meant to "echo" the "invisible roots of the lotus that lie below the depth of the water."
The statue's "horns mimic the movement of the arms and are there as a symbol of the figure's sovereignty, and its autonomy."
Extra to horns, the monstrous figure is adorned with what is supposed to be the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's lacy judicial collar.
"The luminous figure is also a nod to RBG – as seen in the detail adorning her collar. With Ginsburg’s death and the reversal of Roe, there was a setback to women’s constitutional progress," wrote Sikander.
"The recent focus on reproductive rights in the US after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion in the US, comes to the forefront," she added.
Andrew Beck of the advertising agency Beck & Stone noted
that the statue "is meant to pay homage to Ruth Bader Ginsberg [sic] and her fight for abortion."
Claire Bishop, professor of art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, told the Times, "Maybe she can help channel us back to reinstating Roe v. Wade."
While the statue pays homage to Ginsburg, Sikander told the Art Newspaper that she did not want to base the figure on a real historic woman such as Betty Weinberg Ellerin, the first woman appointed presiding justice of the Appellate Division.
Justice Dianne T. Renwick, chair of a diversity committee at the court, said
of the dehumanized figure's installation, "For the first time since the Court’s historic opening well over 100 years ago, the figure of a woman finally and rightfully will stand on equal footing with the male philosophers and lawgivers who line the other pedestals."
Billy Gribbin, who previously served as a speechwriter for former President Donald Trump, tweeted
, "They turned abortion into a pagan idol to worship and put it on a courthouse."
Conservative commentator Andrew Klavan wrote
, "The New York Courthouse has added this aesthetic atrocity to its sculptures of great lawmakers. It is meant to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg's pro-abortion stance by depicting a woman with demonic goat-horns who has clearly lost the power to reproduce. Or something."
Matt Walsh wrote, "They make ugly things on purpose because they hate beauty, truth, and tradition."
The pro-abortion idol will not remain on the rooftop indefinitely, however. Sikander's statue will reportedly be removed in June.