Last week on my way to the student show at UTEP, I saw the sculpture pictured below hanging outside the Glass gallery at the Fox Fine Arts Center. Moving closer, I saw two letters, since removed, posted on the glass wall.
The first was from a retired marine who works at the University. She wrote an intelligent, impassioned and carefully thought out letter saying she felt this represented a Marine, although it might just as well be a soldier, policeman or other authority figure, but “for me it is and always will be a Marine,” and she felt it insulting to all servicemen and to her personally. She pointed out that as a Marine she defended the right of the individual to freely express his or her opinion, and would fight, as she has literally done in the past, to defend that freedom because that is what Marines do, but she equally expressed outrage at what she felt was being expressed by the work ending her letter with Semper Fi.
Beneath her letter, was another, equally thoughtful, which had been put up later, and which talked of the thousands murdered in Juarez, of the women who had been killed and tortured, of the police who had limbs removed and had been killed. It reminded how many of the bodies had been decapitated, had limbs cut off, and how, in certain cases, when police had been killed, a pig’s head had been left near the sometimes decapitated body.
So the sculpture, far from being some sort of protest of police authority, was designed to act as a reminder of the horrifying violence which for the past year has brutalized the citizens of Juarez.
Both of these interpretations are understandable, each one bringing to bear individual past history and references, but it also shows how thoroughly a work can be misconstrued. I think it unfortunate that the letters have been taken down because they actually provide an excellent point and counterpoint to the sculpture itself which still hangs from the building.-david sokolec