Controversial Melania Trump Statue in Slovenia, Explained as a Piece of Conceptual Art

Melania Trump, the FLOTUS to POTUS Donald Trump has been honored with a life-size wooden sculpture of her image, or something of that sort. Actually, the sculpture unveiled last Friday (July 05, 2019) does not in anyway resemble the former fashion model and now the first lady of the United States; except for the powder blue outfit she wore at Trump’s inauguration ceremony.

The wooden statue stands tall and high on a vacant lot about five miles outside of Sevnica, a town in Novo Mesto, Slovenia where Melania was born. Despite the oddness of how the wooden sculpture looks, Slovenians take pride that the current first lady of America hails from their town. Say one Sevnica local,

She is our beauty, no matter what, even here. She looks like she just walked out of a beautiful naive painting,”

The essence of her beauty though, escaped the statue as none of the facial details resembled Melania’s features. The artist used a chainsaw to carve the entire figure out of a live linden tree, nine feet from the ground. That explains why everything looks rough, block-like and uneven. The eyes are just a pair of ovals bulging under a single brow. The nose, rather than chiseled, was a mere unflattering blob at the center. Some of the locals likened the carved image to a “Smurfette,” which is in fact, a befitting description of the statue’s appearance.

Onlookers are unable to figure out if the statue is meant as a tribute to the U.S. first lady, or to make fun of her. Still, in spite of the deformed features, it is supposed to be a serious piece of art. There is an art gallery, a conceptual artist and a blue-collar, pipe-layer who dabbles on occasional artwork, involved in its creation.

The Melania Trump Statue at Slovenia, Intended as a Conceptual Art Piece

Lukas Feireiss, the curator of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana involved with the concept of installing the woodwork in Melania’s hometown, said that it is indeed puzzling. Yet in knowing the artist behind its creation, the very ambiguity of the wood monument is its strength and beauty.

As it turned out, the Melania Trump statue is a piece of conceptual art devised by an American international art provocateur named Brad Downey. This artist is known for his display of artistic contradictions by way of sculptures, drawings, paintings and films.

The Melania Trump statue is his latest concept, for which he sought an amateur sculptor who was born in the same place and period as Melania Trump, to do the actual chainsaw carving, The contrast he intended to show is the divergence in stature achieved by two individuals born in the same month, year and place.

Downey found his amateur sculptor in the person of Ales “Maxi” Zupevc, a hard-working fellow who digs ditches and lays cable pipes for a civil engineering company. He engages in sculpture as a hobby. Zupevc is from a town near Sevnica where Melania grew up and was born in April, 1970; the same month and year when the U.S. first lady was born in the same hospital.

In a short documentary produced by Downey, Zupevc says he taught himself woodworking but only as a hobby; a reprieve from his backbreaking work as a ditch digger and pipe layer.

According to Zupevc, Downey handed him a photo of Melania Trump for him to copy by using as chain saw in sculpting the log. He received instructions that if there is one thing that must appear exactly as it is, is Melania’s powder blue Inauguration Day dress and pumps.

Zupevc is proud of his work, and hopes Melania, whom he thinks owns half of America, would be happy,

Populism : An Overview on What It’s All About in Politics

Populism is best described rather than defined, because it does not have specific context, except for a promise of addressing the needs of the neglected masses. Its concept promotes the idea that the political divide is between the morally upright masses and the corrupt ruling elite.

The division is built on the premise that those who rose to political power are dependent on the support provided by their political party as well as beholden to the elite who donated funds for their political campaign. As a result, traditional politicians whether right or left wing, tend to legislate based on the political goals of his or her party, which often times are for the benefit of the elite rather than the ordinary masses.

Reasons Why Populist Leaders are Chosen

Support for populist leaders rise if there are critical reasons that influence voters from detaching their politics from a traditional political party.

The Director of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR), Martin Bull, explained that the swell in support for populist parties in Europe, started to happen between 2008 and 2011, when the banking crisis in European countries transformed into sovereign debt crisis.

Widespread corruption is the most common reason that makes voters in Europe turn to populist leaders. This is exactly what happened in Slovakia in the country’s recent presidential elections. The killing of a young investigative reporter who had been investigating a high profile corruption case, enraged a country that was already calling for reforms aimed at eradicating political corruptions in the government.

The Slovakian people’s anger translated into overwhelming votes that catapulted a politically inexperienced, female environmental lawyer into becoming Slovakia’s first woman president.

Concerns and Issues Against Populism

Although populism is regarded as akin to democracy, it is not by itself without fault. Dr. Bull argues that when people no longer trust an established system, strongman leaders may emerge. As an authoritarian leader, many make promises to introduce changes, which when scrutinized may not be as feasible as had been projected.

Populist leader Donald Trump promised jobs to millions of unemployed Americans by limiting the influx of migrants, and by preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country. He argues that doing so will lessen competition over employment opportunities intended for natural born Americans.

However, Trump’s promise did not include addressing issues on why many of America’s natural-born citizens are competing for low-paying jobs that do not require skilled workers; or why not many Americans can afford higher education that will enable them to qualify for high-paying careers.

As critics of populism put it, often times promises of populist leaders contain only a few grains of truth.

European Identity & National Identity: Constructing a ‘We’

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2018 Review: Populism swept through Europe in 2018

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European Values, Identity, and Politics in 2019

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