Ed Massey’s “In the Image” damaged on the corner of Wilshire and 26th
By Dolores Quintana
The statue of a homeless man, entitled “In the Image”, that has stood for two years in Santa Monica has been vandalized.
The statue, located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and 26th Street in Santa Monica, was pushed off its pedestal last week which caused significant damage to the statue itself. Ed Massey, the artist who created the work, has never seen one of his creations attacked in such a manner.
Even though Massey’s work is well known for being shown in public, the statue of the unhoused man was kept at his home until the crisis of homelessness reached its current peak. Massey created the statue twenty years ago after meeting an unhoused man on the street while on the way to drop some blueprints off at a FedEx store. He was struck by the man’s tranquil bearing despite his large size and how different he seemed from the stereotypical and fearful beliefs about the unhoused. When he saw how the amount of unhoused people on the streets had increased and how serious the plight was, he was determined to show the statue in public as a confrontation to people who turn away from the issue. Massey noticed an empty pedestal at the building near the corner of 26th Street and Wilshire Boulevard and asked the owner of the building for permission to display it there. The original set time that the statue was to be displayed was six weeks; two years later, the statue has remained on that pedestal.
Massey said, as quoted by the Santa Monica Daily Press, “This is just a real despicable act. My guess is it’s just someone who has so much anger toward a group of people, maybe it was two people, that have so much hatred or animosity towards homeless and unsheltered men and women that they may see on the streets, that they take their aggressions out on some, inanimate sculpture that’s depicting one of the most unfortunate circumstances that we see day to day on every one of our city streets.” Massey added, “I’ve spoken to many people who’ve slept near and by and around that sculpture over the last almost two years, actually including as of last night even, and they’re very supportive, helpful. And no one showed animosity that I could see in that immediate area ever.”
Since much of his work is shown in public spaces and meant to provoke thought and sometimes outrage, Massey is very proud that “In The Image” has become a center of attention for people who advocate for the unhoused, for other artists looking for subjects to sketch, and even for tour groups. The amount of interest that the statue has awakened in the community, even the negative opinions about the statue, showed that the art installation was making a real impact. However, even though there has been some negative feedback, there were never any previous incidents of vandalism which would give an indication of true hostility towards the statue. It was, therefore, a real shock to the artist for someone to attack the installation from out of the blue.
The statue sustained damage in several places from the fall and Massey is determined to repair it and return the statue to its pedestal quickly even though he was disquieted by the strike on the work. Massey said, “It’s repairable. I’m going to repair it with our team. We’re going to repair it and we’re going to get it back up.”
For example, a previous work of Massey’s that was displayed in Santa Monica in 1994 was called “Morality / Mortality” which showed two wailing naked men hung by their genitalia above the body of a woman who had been raped. The focus of his work has mainly been social criticism, he and his brother founded Portraits of Hope, a project for schoolchildren to use their artistic skills to beautify spaces in Los Angeles and New York, like the Spheres at MacArthur Park where thousands of brightly painted sphere were set loose in the park’s lake. The project encourages kids’ interest in art and is meant to give them a sense of pride in their artistic endeavors.