December 5, 2019 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Homeless Statue in Santa Monica Intended to Confront Public

“In The Image” by Ed Massey on display at former Savings and Loans building

By Sam Catanzaro

A seven-foot-tall sculpture of a homeless man at the former Savings and Loans building in Santa Monica asks the public to “contemplate their views and elevate their discourse on the issue,” of homelessness says the artist, who has a history of generating buzz in Santa Monica through art.

The statue, titled “In The Image”, sculpted by Ed Massey, is of a bearded homeless man wearing baggy clothes with a red blanket draped on his shoulders, depicting a man the artist came across 20 years ago.

“Good people — progressive to conservative, secular to religious — are confronted by the issue everyday…Yet, few know the stories of the homeless with whom we come in contact. What don’t we know of those we pass without a glance? What could be their potential contributions? What does the sculpture evoke or say about us?” Reads a part of the description. “The ‘In the Image’ work was always intended for the public realm, so viewers and passersby could contemplate their views and elevate their discourse on the issue — one that has now come to affect us all where we work and live.”

“In The Image” by Ed Massey on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and 26th Street in Santa Monica. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

For 50 years, the property, located at Wilshire Boulevard and 26th Street, was home to the historic Millard Sheets “Pleasures Along the Beach” glass mosaic. Earlier this year, however, the mosaic was moved to the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University in the City of Orange, despite its landmark designation.

“The loss is the result of the City’s settlement of a lawsuit brought against it by the property owner, reversing the landmark designation in 2013 as well as the Santa Monica Conservancy’s appeal to City Council, which once again confirmed the designation in 2017,” said the Santa Monica Conservancy in June.

In an online thread, Twitter account Santa Monica Problems (@SantaMonicaProb) took aim at city officials for allowing the statue to be erected.

“Only in [Santa Monica] would a statue of a family be replaced [with a] statue of a homeless man. Why not honor a resident, rather than glorify homelessness?” reads the Tweet. “[Santa Monica’s] homeless situation is nothing to be proud of.”

Santa Monica City Councilmember Ted Winterer, however, wrote in a reply to the tweet that the City has no authority over the statue’s subject matter citing the owner’s First Amendment rights.

“You realize it’s private property right? The owner made the decision to remove the mural and previous sculpture and replace it with the new one, not the city. Can’t stop the owner from exercising her/his First Amendment rights,” Winterer wrote.

The installation will be on display for six weeks.

A Los Angeles Times clipping of a 1994 article on Ed Massey’s “Morality/Mortality” installation in Santa Monica. Photo: LA Times via Ed Massey (edmasey.com).

This is not the first time artist Ed Massey has generated buzz in Santa Monica. In 1994, as part of a five-city exhibition, Massey along with feminist activist Peg Yorkin installed life-size painted-polyurethane foam figures depicting the grisly aftermath of a sexual assault titled “Morality/Mortality” in a storefront window at the Wilshire Medical Building at Wilshire Boulevard on Wilshire Boulevard and 15th Street, which had recently opened.

“It would have been a lot easier to show the piece in a third-floor gallery in Manhattan,” Massey told the LA Times at the time. “But this has to be in a public area. The work is intended to attract attention and discussion. If it doesn’t do that, I’ve failed.”

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