WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Mall, the nearly-two-mile-long grassy strip that sits just opposite the White House and which has been host to nearly every type of political and social protest, may be about to have a new "guest": a 45-foot-tall wire-frame sculpture of singer/songwriter Deja Solis created by artist Marco Cochrane and titled R-Evolution. The sculpture, though not anatomically correct (no nipples, no vulva), nonetheless appears to be nude and standing in a yogic "mountain pose": Erect posture with arms slightly away from the torso and palms facing forward in order to, as Cochrane has stated, "stand in her strength and power. She is expressing her humanity; how she feels when she is safe, when she can just be."
R-Evolution is one of three similar sculptures—Bliss Dance and Truth Is Beauty are the other two—and according to Cochrane, "these sculptures are intended to demand a change in perspective. They are intended to be agents for social change. They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body, to the person: to de-objectify women and inspire people across the world to take action to end violence against women, create space for women’s voices and demand equal rights for all, thus allowing everyone to live fully and thrive, safely and without fear."
If the National Park Service grants Cochrane's permit request, R-Evolution will take her place on the Mall on Friday, November 10, the beginning of the annual "Catharsis on the Mall" weekend celebration, whose organizers describe it as "a vigil that features lectures, discussions, workshops, community art, music, and unstructured spaces intended to facilitate seeing and healing for wounds in ourselves, each other and in our society."
R-Evolution debuted at the 2015 Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, and has been widely acclaimed by artists and scholars around the world—so of course, conservative religious groups have been up in arms at the thought that a 45-foot-tall representation of a nude woman might be seen by visitors to the D.C. area.
"25 million children, families and tourists visit the Mall annually," stated C. Preston Noell III of the religio-conservative group Tradition, Family and Property. "They will be exposed to this unexpected display of female nudity. ... Parents don't want their kids to see this stuff. Nor do tourists expect to see nudity on the Mall. That's why so many decent people are standing up in peaceful protest. 16,000 people have signed the petition in just a few hours, urging Park Service authorities to reject this indecent display on federal property. Every single voice against public nudity counts. This needs to be stopped and common decency restored.
"Our petition is a protest against public nudity," Noell explained. "Who wants a nude female statue that sexually objectifies women on the National Mall? If we want our children to grow up in a clean and decent social atmosphere, this nudity should be kept away. Most Americans don't want this 45-foot national embarrassment."
But then Noell got to the root of the "problem": "To dismiss this giant naked woman statue in Washington, D.C. as something of little importance is to ignore how nudism gradually worms its way into society. And once nudism becomes socially acceptable, it’s over with civilization."
The conservative online news site Whirled Nut Daily World Net Daily actually took a reader poll (nonpartisanly titled "Slouching Towards Gomorrah") to get their reaction to the installation. Some of the possible choices were: "Its message of women being safe is beautiful and needed" (11 percent of voters chose this one); "It combats the increasing dehumanization and sexualization of women's bodies" (3 percent); "Only perverts and those opposed to women's equality will be against it" (1 percent); "Trump needs to fire the park service official who issued the permit" (the big winner at 38 percent); and "So, we're tearing down Robert E. Lee statues and erecting soft-porn ones? Priceless" (the runner-up at 36 percent).
Cochrane and some of his associates are still raising money through an Generosity campaign to make the exhibition happen. After all, the sculpture, which is made of steel rods, wire mesh and LED lights, would have to make a 3,000-mile journey to D.C., and construction crews would be needed to disassemble it in California and reassemble it there—and then, considering that the sculpture is scheduled to remain on the Mall for about four months, and considering the number of crazies that are likely to be attracted to it, R-Evolution would require round-the-clock security. Volunteers are currently being interviewed.
A video of Cochrane talking about R-Evolution at the 2015 Burning Man festival can be found here.
UPDATE: The Park Service denied permission for the erection, issuing a statement in which it claimed that "The request to locate R-Evolution on turf near the Washington Monument for 91 days and the temple for 119 days is significantly in excess of the five-day time restriction set forth in the National Mall Turf Management Guidelines and would likely cause significant damage to and require replacement of the underlying turf and soil. Additionally, the proposed nearly 48-foot height of the statue introduces a visual element that would diminish the property’s significant historic features by altering the setting and historic character of the National Mall landscape."
Pictured: Marco Cochrane and Deja Solis with R-Evolution.