That question came up last week for strollers along downtown Bemidji's Sculpture Walk, which this year features nine painted fiberglass beavers, including one with -- to some eyes -- a
suggestive painting on its belly.
After about 20 callers complained to City Hall that artist Deborah Davis' painting appeared to be of female genitalia, City Manager John Chattin ordered Davis' sculpture removed from the Sculpture Walk, officials
in the northern Minnesota city said.
Al Belleveau, president of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, said that at Chattin's request, he moved the sculpture to his yard until the City Council decides what to do with it.
That prompted a protest during
Sunday's July 4th parade. A crowd of people gathered near where Davis' beaver sculpture had stood, some carrying signs that read Censored, Davis said. In addition, some of the other beaver artists veiled their own works in solidarity with
Davis, of Blackduck, Minn., called her work Gaea, which she said can mean Mother Earth or God is gracious. The beaver has female figures painted on its sides and a tree on its back. Its belly features a painting in
which some see praying hands and some see woman's genitalia.
My intent was to paint Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Davis said. I didn't understand that some people saw genitalia. ... I understand people see different things in art, and
they need to be free to do that. ... My intent was to paint a praying woman.
Gaea, the controversial beaver sculpture, has been vandalized, but quickly cleaned up and returned to normal.
The Bemidji Police Department received an anonymous phone call saying that the sculpture had been defaced with black spray paint.
The spray paint covered what artist Deborah A. Davis has said are the hands of a praying woman.
While Davis has said the front of the sculpture shows Mother Earth praying and the circles are roses coming forth from her hands, others have
viewed the sculpture differently, seeing, instead, a portion of the female anatomy.
Police arrived on the site after 11 p.m. Tuesday and found the paint to be tacky the touch, according to a police report.
Davis, in an e-mail sent at
12:35 a.m., said she and Jeremy Anway, a Bemidji artist, repaired the sculpture.