I’ll be honest and say that the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the “Sketchy Dog” was not artistic criticism. No, the first thing I thought was how inappropriate it was for someone to add such a demeaning statue to someone else’s work. I also felt offended as a woman myself.
The “Fearless Girl” statue was placed in New York City on March 7, 2017, the night before International Women’s Day. A Boston financial firm that goes by State Street Global Advisors hired sculptor Kristen Visbal to create the fearless girl statue as a campaign to “call attention to the gender pay gap and a lack of women on corporate financial sector boards.” The art has quickly become an American icon that people continue to visit and talk about.
The sculpting of the “Fearless Girl” is nothing elaborate. In fact, the message and cultural meaning behind the statue is where the art receives all of its credit. The bronze work of art stands with her hands on her hips as she faces the famous stock market bull, or “Charging Bull” by artist Arturo Di Modica, head-on. The young girl’s fierce pose and collected face ooze confidence from her stance to the swing of her crafted ponytail. As soon as the statue was revealed it quickly escalated into a symbol that women and young girls everywhere could look up-to. It has had such an impact on viewers that people feel a strong urge to participate somehow. A few people have added things to the art highlighting its overall message. My personal favorite of that is a “Wonder Woman” crown placed upon her head. Most of the time though, visitors simply have the desire to the stand next to the girl and copy her pose, to feel empowered by the ability to face and achieve anything. Even leading Fortune 500 could recognize how it has captured our “hopes and our ambitions for every little girl in the world.” The art is so successful in its creativity because the statue is so symbolic. Forbes also highlights this with CEO Wendy Clark’s take on its persuasiveness: “It transcends geography, it transcends language, it transcends culture.”
It’s affecting more than just art critics. The fearless girl is a symbol that everyone, everywhere can look to and become inspired by. Its wide audience reach and universal symbolism argues for its persuasiveness which explains why the statue has become so popular and talked about now. It is exactly the kind of art that moves people and argues for a meaning and cause. It is art. But what follows a feminist icon, is another artistic response and overall drama in the art industry.
As most artists are aware, Di Modica sculpted his famous “Charging Bull” for New York to celebrate as he stated, “The can-do spirit of America and especially New York.” Many people characterize the bull as the stock market because it was revealed right after the stock market crash in the eighties and was meant, in the artist’s words, to symbolize a “booming economy.”
Many artists also admire the polished bull for its sheer volume and expertise. However, while the bull’s presence and meaning is mostly universal and respected, when the fearless girl was added, the bull’s message began to develop in a different way. Di Modica was angry with this and, in return, artist Alex Gardega attempted to make a stance for him by creating the “Sketchy Dog,” aka the “Pissing Pug.”
First, I’ll examine and critique the statue from an artistic background. Gardega is a fairly well-experienced artist in not only sculptures but paintings, drawings, and glass art as well. Gardega could have put his experience behind his argument, but instead he intentionally made the dog a “downgrade because ‘Fearless Girl’ is a downgrade to the ‘Charging Bull.’” The pug is a small sculpture and at first glance it is difficult to even tell it is a pug. The work is lighter in weight and color than the other statue. Its hind leg sticks out as if it were peeing on “Fearless Girl.” The artist said his purpose for the dog was to bring awareness to the “fake feminist” message that the “Fearless Girl” stood for. His audience reaches everyone around the world but his message especially hits home for women and little girls everywhere. The statue sits in the center of New York City, America’s hub, and Gardega’s intended message from the artwork alone is hard to grasp, meaning, the first thing that viewers see is just a statue of a pug peeing on a new American icon. While Gardega was trying to highlight the disrespect that Di Modica experiences from the fearless girl’s presence , he simultaneously disrespects sculptor Visbal in the same manner.
Additionally, for artwork, all of these pieces are displayed in a very social medium. Commuters and walkers can pass by the artwork anytime during their trip in the city. Tourists take pictures next to these arts daily. These pictures have been posted all over the internet. These arts are identifiable and so are most of their meanings. No matter what people think of fearless girl’s original creation, her face has now spread throughout the world and has inspired millions. Her message is feminist. The sculpture has done what art is meant to do. It has expressed a very relevant topic into a creative form to become exposed to many. It can uplift young girls and women everywhere into believing they can do anything.
“Charging Bull” will always be a work of art with a strong meaning of American prosperity. “Fearless Girl” will always symbolize feminism and inspire women daily. “Sketchy Dog” is taking away from those positive messages and is transforming the famous artworks of New York into something they are not. Artwork is a way to speak out or uplift through a peaceful and respectable method. New York is a center for great artists and artwork. Gardega’s art is directly attacking another piece and is sending a message that goes against what the “Fearless Girl” stands for to begin with. To stand against what the statue represents, is standing against those who believe in the statue and is a form of insult to them. Additionally, there is an artist and story behind every piece and just like Di Modica and the bull’s story, Visbal and the “Fearless Girl” have a message. Instead of directly attacking another a piece of work and distorting a positive meaning, let’s push back the drama and enjoy the beauty and talent presented to us. In the end, this isn’t what New York is about and this isn’t what art is meant for. No, art is for inspiration, and in the fearless girl’s case, it has and continues to inspire thousands. That is what we strive for.