A woman holding the slain decapitated head of a man in a New York City park.
That is the subject of Argentinian artist Luciano Garbati’s sculpture, “Medusa with the Head of Perseus,” which was unveiled in Manhattan’s Collect Pond Park on Tuesday, Oct. 13. The sculpture is specifically placed across the street from the courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was convicted for sex crimes against women.
With snakes for hair and a gaze that could turn people into stone, Medusa is arguably one of the most iconic mythological characters of all time. Many people are aware of the original myth and can observe the statue “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” standing front and center in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts gallery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, but many do not know the story behind the ferocious woman.
Medusa was a rape victim. Once a beautiful, mortal woman, she was raped by the god Poseidon in the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, according to the poet Ovid’s “Metamorphosis.” Enraged at this violation in her temple, Athena cursed Medusa to become a monster, essentially victim-blaming the young woman. The myth alludes to the concept of victim-blaming, where victims are held at fault and silenced for crimes committed against them, has been around for thousands of years.
Garbati created the sculpture in 2008, long before the #MeToo movement gained traction in 2017 when millions of women used social media to rise against their sexual abusers. The work is flipping the narrative of the original myth, in which Perseus, who was aided by the gods, beheads Medusa. Garbati modeled the head of Perseus, which Medusa holds, after his own face. Now, the nearly seven-foot bronze woman stands as a symbol of justice for women wronged by men.
The statue is part of the Art in the Parks Program hosted by NYC Parks, and will remain in Collect Pond Park near the New York County Criminal Court until April 30, 2021.
On Instagram, Garbati, 47, said that the location of the statue is not a coincidence as the courthouse is where cases for crimes related to violence against women are judged. Most notably, the case of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who was exposed of sexual misconduct by numerous women at the peak of #MeToo movement, was judged there. In fact, one of the women who stepped forward was actress Uma Thurman, who portrayed Medusa in the 2010 film “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”
While the sculpture’s reception remained mainly positive, people took to Twitter and Instagram to share their criticism. Some questioned why a male artist was chosen to display a work surrounding female empowerment, while others wondered why Medusa is holding the head of Perseus, the man who killed her, and not Poseidon, her rapist.
Criticism aside, the statue outgrew a reimagining of the myth of Medusa. It recognizes female victims who were never able to speak their truth and embraces the ever-changing evolution of feminism in the 21st century.