So much has transpired since the controversies
surrounding the artwork of Robert Mapplethorpe. His work is at
once elegant, erotic, austere, deeply sadomasochistic, and pornographic;
and it wasn't to the aesthetic, philosophical and religious tastes
It might have gone altogether unnoticed
outside of the lofty art circles of Manhattan, however; but for
the cancellation of the retrospective "The Perfect Moment"
at the Corcoran Gallery of Art -- a mere hop and skip away from
the White House; and the later prosecution of Dennis Barrie of
the Contemporary Arts Center, in the arch-conservative town of
Cincinnati, Ohio, for pandering obscenity.
"Maple Tree Meets the Censors"
is directly informed by Mapplethorpe's work, with special reference
to his infamous "Man in
The shape of the wood suggests a phallus
(the working title for the work was "Dick Head"); a
crown of nails is driven into his head to suggest the slings
and arrows of Robert's enemies (compare with "the human
blockhead"); and leather is lashed across his mouth to silence
his scream (the other alternate title of the work is "Maple
Tree's Silent Scream.")
Hopefully, "Maple Tree" is
a fitting folk art tribute to his legacy. I
think Robert would have been pleased.