Scrap Sculptures, Mayor Says

September 19, 2007

Author: Gordon Kent

Source: The Edmonton Journal

Mayor Stephen Mandel wants four sculptures outside the Shaw Conference Centre taken away immediately after local Hindu leaders complained they're disrespectful of one of their faith's beloved gods.

The works by Edmonton artist Ryan McCourt use castoff industrial material to depict the elephant-headed Ganesha in various poses, including one piece in which he stands with his head lying on the ground beside a pillar that holds a breast and female genitals.

The temporary display has been outside the conference centre on Jasper Avenue since last November.

A letter sent Tuesday to Mandel, city councillors and the Edmonton Economic Development Corp. describes the sculptures as "debasing depictions of a God revered by all Hindus" and calls for them to be removed.

The letter, signed by 16 Hindu elders, priests and other officials, asks the city to ensure that in future no art using icons from any religion will be approved for this type of display unless it's approved by representatives from the religion involved.

"We're saying no religious community should see their icons treated in a way that they're not comfortable with when they had no input," said group spokesman Aran Veylan.

"The artist is absolutely free to create whatever art he wants and put it on display in private galleries. Our concern here is that this is a publicly funded, publicly endorsed presentation using tax dollars."