WHS sculpture unveiled - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman: News

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Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012 8:30 pm | Updated: 5:07 pm, Fri Oct 12, 2012.

WASILLA - The cover has come off a controversial piece of public art at Wasilla High School.

Days after the "Warrior Within" was installed in front of the school Jan. 29, WHS Principal Amy Spargo had the 12.5-foot-high sculpture covered after fielding concerns from some students and parents that the work resembled female genitalia.

It had been covered until about 6 p.m., Friday while the school continues to work with the artists, Meadow Lakes residents Jim Dault and Shala Dobson, to educate students and the community about their artistic interpretation of the warrior spirit.

Spargo said she's putting together a committee of community members, students, parents and administrators to review the piece. In the meantime, the tarps are off in preparation for this week's parent-teacher conferences, she said.

"It was already scheduled to be uncovered for the parent-teacher conferences," Spargo said.

Dault and Dobson said Friday afternoon they didn't know about the plan to uncover their work, but that they are pleased with the development.

"I think it's great, that's what it's meant for," Dobson said. "We're very happy. That's what we wanted to have happen, and we wanted to do the presentation so they could understand the symbolism of the ‘Warrior Within.'"

The $100,000 artwork was commissioned through the Percent for Art Program, a state law that requires the expenditure of 1 percent of capital construction costs of public buildings for permanent installation of artwork. A Percent for Art committee comprised of Wasilla High staff, students and administrators made a final recommendation, which was then approved by the Mat-Su Borough School District School Board.

That committee process wasn't inclusive enough, Spargo said, adding she thinks public debate is healthy.

"Where this goes is going to depend on the Wasilla High community, and I really believe everyone needs a voice," she said. "I want the kids to have education when they look at it. I don't want it to be defaced, I don't want it to be a big joke."

That education will happen Feb. 24, when the artists will give presentations to the student body about the symbolism of the art. Part of that includes information about the shape of the sculpture's shields, Dault said.

"Those shields are in the same shape Zulu warriors use," he said. "A warrior's greatest battle is within himself, and for a warrior, patience has a great reward. Everyone has to answer to the warrior within themselves."

While Spargo is re-opening the committee process, not everyone agrees with her assessment the original Percent for Art committee wasn't inclusive enough. In fact, "Warrior Within" wasn't the first concept the artists pitched to the committee, Dault and Dobson said.

They first presented an idea for a sculpture featuring a pair of Olympians with their arms raised in victory spelling out a large "W," Dobson said. But the committee thought that idea was too literal and the artists were asked to come back with something that was more symbolic.

"They wanted something more cerebral that would make you think," Dobson said.

The decision to uncover "Warrior Within" was also hailed by Howard Bess, a Valley community activist and Palmer Arts Council board member. The council's board met Wednesday evening to discuss what it viewed as censorship of public art.

"I'm very glad she did it," Bess said of Friday's unveiling. "It was the point of view of the board - unanimous - that the covering of it was unfortunate. As far as the artwork itself, there really needs to be public education and discussion. Good artwork will always produce both wonder and discussion. Negative comments about it should simply be seen as part of the community discussion."

While the future of "Warrior Within" is still in doubt, Bess said he believes the school should support the public process that already has concluded and leave the sculpture where it is.

"My personal hope is they leave it right where it is," he said. "The idea of removing it completely, I don't think that would be a good solution. Let the artwork speak for itself."

As for Spargo, the principal said she's keeping an open mind and that she believes the publicity and public debate sparked by her decision to cover the sculpture can be healthy.

"The whole idea with the ‘Warrior Within,' that's something we're thinking about for (education opportunities) with the kids," she said. "If that's what ends up resonating with kids, then I would say it would be a huge success. But, kids these days, they think what they think."

So, what's the future for the sculpture?

"I really can't predict at this point," Spargo said. "I am surprised there has been such a strong response both ways, but not alarmed. I'm happy to facilitate the process."

See a related story on this topic at tinyurl.com/6rj8my9.

Contact reporter Greg Johnson at greg.johnson@frontiersman.com or 352-2269.


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  • FORD posted at 8:34 am on Tue, Feb 28, 2012.

    FORD Posts: 488

    The Frontiersman complains about censorship and then censors the comments on a controversial topic? I think they miss that this is a very conservative section of the State. This so called art is not within the community standards and is being panned.

  • kaigun posted at 11:52 am on Mon, Feb 27, 2012.

    kaigun Posts: 146

    So the Frontiersman has disabled comments on the other stories, even the new one reporting the assemblies at the school Friday where the "artists" explained their bomb. Like I told my son when we talked about it at dinner-if you have to explain the symbolism, it failed. This piece is in all ways a costly failure, except for the "artists" who scored 100 grand of Other People's Money and no doubt got their notoriety card punched with the arts crowd. The rest of us got stuck with a big, ugly lump.

  • FORD posted at 6:52 am on Thu, Feb 23, 2012.

    FORD Posts: 488

    perrenialgma wants to make the argument that since the rest of the world has no morals we shouldn't expect higher values at school. I absolutely disagree with that premise. Schools should be a place of high ideals, not low life.

  • OutSideTheBox posted at 5:12 pm on Wed, Feb 22, 2012.

    OutSideTheBox Posts: 65

    Phallic symbols refer specifically towards males. I believe you meant "yonic" which is the female equivalent. However, the rest of your post does provide enough substance to a relevant question.

  • perennialgma posted at 7:38 am on Wed, Feb 22, 2012.

    perennialgma Posts: 425

    Ha! Open your minds people! It's not that bad! The students will be able to discuss art appreciation and we will all be better for it. I seriously DOUBT the artists have any agenda, especially sexualizing the 'children' of the valley. Get real, have you seen what's out there? Turn on the radio, take a listen, turn on the tube and look, go to the store and see the magazine covers. Take a walk on the beach this summer. You can google up any kind of conspiracy.....

  • thunderduck posted at 12:30 am on Wed, Feb 22, 2012.

    thunderduck Posts: 23

    Regardless of what you thought it was..everyone will now see as the "artists" intended. I have viewed there past work and comments and I'm sure they and their art buddies are have a "enlightened laugh" at us " simple" working folk. If this were to invoke the "Warrior Spirit" why did they use a shield representive of Africa ,not Alaska or even America.
    Get off Ms Spargo's back for this uncreative piece of rock. The blame for this mess rests with the school board and assembly who oks stupid projects. The money would have been better spent in the school arts programs for the students to create artwork rather than a $100,000 sophmorish prank.

  • kaigun posted at 4:04 pm on Tue, Feb 21, 2012.

    kaigun Posts: 146

    AK vote says-

    "Let the artists educate the people on what they are SUPPOSED to see in that sculpture."

    SUPPOSED to see? I thought art was open to individual interpretation. You make it sound like there is only one interpretation. Maybe you're one of those Wasilla Taliban some idiot was screeching about on one of the other threads.

    I will admit I'm really not much interested in what the "artists" have to say about their ugly lump. I am reminded of the old riddle "How many legs does a donkey have it you call its tail a leg?"

    Of course the answer is four, because you can call its tail a leg all you want but that doesn't make it so.

    And so our "artists" can say their ugly lump represents "Warrior Spirit" and is worth $100,000 all they want, but that doesn't make it so.

  • icky posted at 12:20 pm on Tue, Feb 21, 2012.

    icky Posts: 4

    AK58, Yes, I know what the stadium is called, thank you. My point is the stadium is a lot bigger than ET1 Hemenway's memorial - the stadium won't overshadow the art the way the art overshadows the memorial.

  • OutSideTheBox posted at 9:18 am on Tue, Feb 21, 2012.

    OutSideTheBox Posts: 65

    A thousand years people may discover this work and say, "Oh look, a vagina. This must have been a school for girls." Not Warriors.

  • FORD posted at 6:53 am on Tue, Feb 21, 2012.

    FORD Posts: 488

    Putting these "artists" names into a search engine shows that this isn't the first time they have displayed sexually charged art. FOSSIL FIG: VAY JAY JAY At the far end of the gallery, a viewer may be flabbergasted at the Fossil Fig, shown at left, and Dobson claimed surprise at the resemblance to certain female anatomical characteristics. Uh-huh.

    Don't be fooled folks this was done on purpose and the more you research the more the truth will come out. These people want to sexualize the valley children plain and simple. Call them on it.

  • AK58 posted at 10:14 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    AK58 Posts: 121

    Icky has posted a couple times now about the affront to Military families at the placement of the artwork. Your fix is to move it to the football field. Do you know what the football field is called? It's Memorial Stadium. Dedicated to the memory of those lost in the service of their country. To move it there makes even less sense
    .Someone below described this sculpture as pornogrphy? Not hardly. To paraphrase some judge somewhere that said "I know what pornogrphy is when I see it and that ain't it".
    Let's move on folks. In a thousand years someone will discover this rock buried in the ground and compare it to the Venus DeMilo and the Statue of David. Those are other old pornogrphic pieces.

  • Rusty posted at 8:52 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    Rusty Posts: 114

    Went to the website cited below. Yes, there is a distinct trend in these so called "artists" work. The word degenerate comes to mind. It is no wonder our traditional American culture is on the brink of collapse. If this thing were placed on the roof of a adult shop, the nieghboring community would immediately force it's removal from public view.. permanently.

  • Eva posted at 8:33 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    Eva Posts: 12

    THANK YOU !!! Discourse. People try to be open minded, but sometimes you just need to trust your gut on art interpretation. I went to the link and checked out other artworks by this pair, and it's fair to assume sexuality was intend behind this piece.

    So for others, draw your own conclusions on the piece for me, this link was enough to put any doubts out of my mind. ArtSceneAK#703

  • OutSideTheBox posted at 5:18 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    OutSideTheBox Posts: 65

    The general public, including grandparents, will see this piece of waste for what it is. They are not interested in having to "research" the creator of this junk just to try and justify it's existence. Fraud, waste and pornogrphy come to mind. Shame on everyone involved.

  • discourse posted at 4:36 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    discourse Posts: 112

    When the issue first arose, I felt that the artists had been too easily condemned in a whirlwind of adolescent drama. I felt that parents too often listen to their kids, and don't search for facts. I have felt that those in charge can be guilty, too often, of re-acting instead of acting. However the following link brings the 'artists' innocence' at least to the discussion. You need to scroll down to 'Forbidden Fruit and Fossil Fig' to view other artwork by this pair. I applaud the idea of a committee to search out truth. If the art indeed had an intended racy element, it needs to be returned to the producers and the state's money refunded. Let's find truth. You need to read this as a web address:
    art scene ak dot net vl 07 su 03 htm due to the new filter on comments.
    (ArtSceneAK#703, March 15, 2008)

  • icky posted at 2:16 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    icky Posts: 4

    Like I said on the other article about this "work of art", if it needs to be kept, can it please be moved away from the main entrance? Put it near the football field. There is already a memorial near the flag pole, and no offense to the artists, but their "work" is overshadowing that. I think, as do most military families, that the Battlefield Cross Memorial to ET1 Hemenway is a little more important than the sculptured rock. And if I'm not mistaken, aren't the Wasilla Warriors Native American and not Zulu? So why the Zulu shield?

  • Lynnak posted at 1:32 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    Lynnak Posts: 1

    Anyone seriously interested in the artists' intent can visit the artsceneak.netvl07su03htm website (art scene ak dot net vl 07 su 03 htm) to view other samples of their work.

    Their reference is clear and unmistakeable, there will be no confusion or multiple interpretations.

  • Nostalgia1 posted at 11:49 am on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    Nostalgia1 Posts: 143

    Daulton and Dobson designed this "thing" to resemble many things to include female genitalia; they aren't kidding anyone. They are laughing all the way to the bank. Good show! And the self proclaimed Valley community activist has once again shown his head and lack of moral compass.

  • yuuyaraq posted at 8:37 am on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    yuuyaraq Posts: 85

    Art and creative efforts are always open to interpretation. As a citizen I would ask parents and families to have a discussion about the Warrior Shield over their shared daily dinner/meal. The key, here, is for young people to learn the importance of respectful discourse, dialogue and inquiry. I would be disappointed if there was any violence or destruction/defacement or further censorship (cloaking) of the piece. Fellow citizens fought for our freedom of expression. Honor them and us and enjoy the wide range of perspectives. One judgment I'd make is that if you've limited your interpretation to the physical aspects, only, then you may need to learn more about symbolism and history and do some "inner work" as a Warrior!

    I've noticed that the article on this piece has received more comments and attention than articles on significant political and economic issues we face. As a creative writer I'd deduct...the piece works 'cause it's generated discussion about interpretation.

    Paul Maguire, PhD

  • perennialgma posted at 6:46 am on Mon, Feb 20, 2012.

    perennialgma Posts: 425

    This is kinda funny. I know they claim the Washington monument is a phalic symbol, I say let the Wasilla High community figure it out and call it a lesson . Amy Spargo knows what to do. LMAOROF...

  • Rusty posted at 2:58 pm on Sun, Feb 19, 2012.

    Rusty Posts: 114

    Haul that piece of junk to the landfill.. and not because of what it might resemble, but for what it is.

  • AK Voter posted at 11:32 am on Sun, Feb 19, 2012.

    AK Voter Posts: 2

    People will continue to see what they WANT to see in any piece of abstract art work.
    Let the artists educate the people on what they are SUPPOSED to see in that sculpture. Maybe someone can learn to appreciate something that has value.
    Please do not deprive those who already see the real meaning of it because some cannot uplift their minds.

  • GolfSierra posted at 5:20 am on Sun, Feb 19, 2012.

    GolfSierra Posts: 1

    The fact of the matter is that it certainly DOES resemble female genitalia, and the public display of such is offensive. It crosses a line to a cultural destination we don't want to go to. Also found there would be a representation of erect male genitalia, probably also girded by "warrior" mythology as a justification of its existence.

  • bluecollar posted at 12:57 am on Sun, Feb 19, 2012.

    bluecollar Posts: 248

    "Negative comments about it should simply be seen as part of the community discussion." I'm sure Mr. Bess. A simple inconvenience for a very liberal view. Well, what about the students?

    Contemporary artists measure notoriety by the amount of controversy so-called art generates. That might be good for Dault and Dobson but at whose expense - literally and personally?

    The "warrior within" is already a joke and will continue to be. The only thing symbolic about this piece is the condescending manner that pretentiously qualifies it as consigned "good artwork". At this point, I think that regaining some semblance of self-respect for the student body should be the main concern of Amy Spargo's newly formed committee.

    The more democratic process would be to let the students of Wasilla High School vote on the matter. I'm sure they will enjoy the educational experience.


12 Angry Jurors

Wasilla High School Drama Department performs ‘Twelve Angry Jurors’ at 7 p.m. April 17 and 18 and 2 p.m., April 19. The show continues at the same times April 24-26. The cast is Aubree Dubois, Zack Frankel, Dianne Ivanoff, Jessica Frankel, Clare Herrick, Kaleb Lease, Nick Carlson, Stefani Schachle, Wyatt Gag, Kylie Saddoris, Shane Conrad, Kindall Rumbo, Ansley Fray and Cassey Manci.

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