The latest addition to an international sculpture park in an Overland Park, Kansas arboretum might be a cross-cultural gift of goodwill from the Chinese government, but it has the local population seeing red. The work in question is “Accept or Reject” by Chinese sculptor Yu Chang. The odd piece shows a headless, topless, midriff-less, and bottom-less woman snapping a picture of her exposed breasts. Interpreting it as promoting sexting (perhaps logically, given its title) and arguing that it is inappropriate for a family environment, some residents have called for the sculpture’s removal.
The park refuses to extract the work, but it has installed an advisory sign warning that some of the sculptures on display feature “parts of the human body” and may not be appropriate for children. A petition created by mother Jo Anne Hughes hopes to gather the 4,000 signatures necessary to bring the issue before a grand jury investigation.
That Yu’s work is provoking a strong reaction is no surprise, but what’s more intriguing is the strange backstory of both the sculpture and the park. Yu is the president of the Sculpture Academy of Guangzhou, and is first on the list of six Chinese sculptors who are contributing to the “Chinese-U.S. Sculpture Park” phase of Overland Park’s International Sculpture Park initiative. The project is meant to serve as a reminder of the presence of Chinese immigrants in the United States.
Just how Yu’s particular work serves this function is unclear. However, within Yu’s oeuvre, the headless female sculpture isn’t quite so shocking. In another sculpture tinged with wonky Futurism, a dramatically posed, wheelchair-bound figure throws a discus. The figure has neither head nor legs. Yu comments on the piece, “It represents the feeling of young people nowadays to struggle in conflict, disappointment and solitude."