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By C. Antonio Romero


NEW YORK, 7 April 2006—In one of the more incongruous entanglements of threads in American pop culture to come along in a while, sculptor Daniel Edwards, has delivered a sculpture of a nude Britney Spears giving birth to her son Sean, as what is being called a Monument to Pro-Life.

It's hard not to be cynical in the face of the breathless touting of this piece and its backstory. "Britney provides inspiration for those struggling with the ‘right choice’," said  Edwards, recipient of a 2005 Bartlebooth award from London’s The Art Newspaper. "She was number one with Google last year, with good reason— people are inspired by the beauty of a pregnant woman." (But does this explanation ring true for anyone? And since when does featuring in the Google Zeitgeist make one a "right choice" as an inspiration for art?)

The dedication of the life-sized statue celebrates the recent birth of Spears’ baby boy, Sean, and applauds her decision of placing family before career. "A superstar at Britney’s young age having a child is rare in today’s celebrity culture. This dedication honors Britney for the rarity of her choice and bravery of her decision," said gallery co-director, Lincoln Capla.

britney spears picture giving birth
Daniel Edwards: Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston
Photo courtesy of Capla Kesting Fine Art

The statue is offered up as "the first Pro-Life monument to birth" by the American anti-abortion movement, and the gallery hosting the statute's dedication, Capla Kesting Fine Art in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, is said to be seeking a permanent home for the statue in time for Mother's Day.  (The Manhattan Right To Life Committee has pitched in as well, making the trek across the Williamsburg Bridge to provide materials and support.)

The strangeness of the project is undeniable. A sort of mise-en-abime with a parodic Möbius Stripper twist seems to be the mode of the day here.

The sculptor, it is said, took as his model a Madame Tussaud's wax figure of Spears doing a stripper's pole dance. And the pose is some ludicrous Playboy pictorial out-take: Spears is nude, on all fours, on a bearskin rug of all things, and described in the press release as "seductively posed... back arched, pelvis thrust upwards."

britney spears pregnant picture
Daniel Edwards: Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston
Photo courtesy of Capla Kesting Fine Art

Gallery co-director, David Kesting offers up that the artist also studied a bearskin rug (one from Canada, no less) "to convey the commemoration of the traditional bearskin rug baby picture" (which, with a baby invariably posed nude, was already a parody of the cheesecake staple).

Of course, the Spears is no longer the writhing nymph we know—the new model, with matronly "lactiferous breasts and protruding naval [sic]" as well as "...widened hips for birthing," could hardly squeeze into her old costumes.

There are limits to the quest for authenticity, though. Edwards denies having borrowed from a rumored bootleg birth video of Spears (which, if it exists and is in the wild, seems bound to show up on or Google Video before long). The statue's crowning glory (the skull of young Sean Preston, just starting to emerge from his mother's birth canal) must, therefore, have sprung mostly from his imagination. (The released press photos omit this image, leaving the interested spectator to make his or her way to the opening on 7 April at the gallery)

The whole affair leaves the mind clanging with cognitive dissonance, resulting from the collision of elements: the teen idol celebrity, the conservative anti-abortion movement, the explicit (yet sanitized) representation of nudity and birth in a culture so tittilated by the former and, often, squeamish about the latter.

Perhaps Edwards has a stronger sense of irony than one usually associates with anti-abortion activists.  Perhaps he (and Manhattan sophisticate right-to-lifers) take some pleasure in transforming the erstwhile heiress to the Material Girl into a new icon of Madonna-with-child. 

As a sculpture, as such, Monument is nearly impossible to judge, because the buzz around it will eclipse the sculpture itself. Monument to Pro-Life as a project seems primarily calculated to attract the attention of the celebrity-mad mainstream media of the United States, and to generate maximum attention for the artist and gallery. (It also smacks a bit of 'search engine marketing," working buzzwords into a Web page in order to draw upon Google's power to send torrents of visitors.) Edwards, Capla and Kesting are so cleary aware of that aspect of the situation that the whole thing seems crass.)

Whatever its merits as sculpture, and however serious the intended political gesture, a simple April Fool's press release could have achieved much the same effect, with far less effort. Perhaps Monument should be returned to the abyss from which it burst forth into the world.

Monument to Pro-Life is on view from 7 - 23 April 2006  with a reception for the dedication on 7 April from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Capla Kesting Fine Art, 121 Roebling Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. Gallery hours are 1:00 – 6:00 pm Thursday thru Sunday, or by appointment. The gallery can be reached at or by phone at 646-932-5687.


C. Antonio Romero is the Nouveau editor of 

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