Controversial Nude Sculpture Opens In Former Coalmine

the lady of the north

After two years of construction and a cost of $4,801,200, “The Lady of the North,” an enormous sculpture of a naked woman, has opened to the public at the former Northumberland coalmine in England.

The 1,200-foot piece of art, with breasts rising almost 100 feet, is carved into the landscape, with the goal being to compete with the Angel of the North, a contemporary angel sculpture, and earn over £1million (about $1,600,400) each year. Visitors can now stroll along a four-mile system of paths along the woman’s curves to various viewing platforms on her face, breasts, hip, knee and ankle.

Originally intended as a gift to the public to atone for the mine’s disruption, The Banks Group, the mining company that extracted the coal, worked with Viscount Ridley, who owns the estate, and American artist Charles Jencks to create the masterpiece. However, the sculpture is causing controversy from people who think it’s ridiculous and demeaning to women.

“I don’t believe it is demeaning to women, men or the human species as a whole, in fact it celebrates all of that,” Jencks told the Daily Mail. “… I profoundly believe that, given time, people will not find any offense in this, and will grow to love her.”

What’s your opinion?

Macedonia: what’s in a name? A major controversy!

Macedonia, Alexander the Great
The erection of a giant statue of Alexander the Great in the Macedonian capital of Skopje is the latest round in an ongoing controversy with neighboring Greece.

The statue, erected on Tuesday as part of an ambitious urban development plan called Skopje 2014, drew criticism from some Greek politicians and nervous mutterings from European diplomats. They say it’s deliberate provocation because Greece objects to the name Macedonia. Using this name, some say, implies a claim over the Greek province of Macedonia, where Alexander the Great was actually born. Of course neither country existed at the time, the land being divided up into a patchwork of ancient city-states. When history is used as a propaganda tool, historic accuracy goes out the window.

Macedonia, officially the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, broke off from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has been in a row with Greece about its name ever since. This isn’t some minor squabbling. Greece successfully blocked Macedonia’s entry into NATO and is stonewalling the country’s attempts to join the European Union. With Macedonia being one of the poorest countries in Europe, this argument over a name is costing them a lot.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

“Mona Lisa model” to be exhumed

Mona LisaScientists are opening the grave of a nun to see if she was the model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The 16th century tomb of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo is being explored in the hopes of finding her skull. With modern facial reconstruction techniques, it’s possible to tell what she looked like, and this will confirm or deny a popular theory that she was the model for the famous painting.

Archaeologists are using subsurface imaging to probe the area under a crypt and staircase they’ve uncovered inside an old convent where the women is presumed to have been buried. They believe that several tombs lie at the bottom of the stairs.

Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo was the wife of a wealthy merchant and when her husband died she became a nun at the convent of San Orsula in Florence, where she died in 1542. It was common in those days for women to join a convent when they were widowed. One has to wonder what Sister Del Giocondo thought of being the subject of the most talked-about portrait in history.

The Mona Lisa has been argued about for generations. Some researchers say the model was Da Vinci’s gay lover, while others say it’s Da Vinci himself in drag.

The lower tombs will be opened in the next few days. Stayed tuned to see if the team finds Mona Lisa’s celebrated head among the remains.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Old Leather Man: controversy over digging up a legend

Leather Man, Leatherman, Old Leather Man, The Old Leather ManInvestigators in Connecticut are planning to uncover a local legend, but they’re facing a backlash of public sentiment.

An archaeological team will open the grave of The Old Leather Man, a mysterious wanderer who from 1883 to 1889 walked a 365 mile loop from the lower Hudson River Valley into Connecticut and back. It took him 34 days to make the journey and he was so punctual that well-wishers used to to have meals ready for him when he showed up. He spoke French but little English, slept only in caves and rock shelters, and never revealed information about himself. He got his name from his homemade, 60 lb. suit of leather.

His grave in Ossining’s Sparta Cemetery brings a regular flow of the curious, but local officials are afraid it’s too close to the street and is a safety hazard. They plan to dig up The Old Leather Man and move him to a different part of the cemetery. They also want to take a DNA sample. Legend claims he was a heartbroken Frenchman named Jules Bourglay, but Leather Man biographer Dan W. DeLuca says this is an invention of a newspaper of the time.

The DNA might prove a clue to who he really was and that’s where the controversy starts. History teacher Don Johnson has set up a website called Leave the Leatherman Alone, saying that his privacy should be respected. Judging from all the comments on his site, he seems to have a fair amount of backing.

As a former archaeologist I love unraveling a good mystery but I have to agree with Mr. Johnson on this one. The Old Leather Man obviously wanted his identity to remain unknown, and just because he was a homeless man why should his wishes be ignored? He never committed any crime besides vagrancy, he died of natural causes, and there are no known inheritance issues, so what’s the need?

As a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley, I loved the mysteries of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states–the strange rock constructions, the Revolutionary War ghosts, Mystery Hill, and, of course, The Old Leather Man. Most of this is the stuff of imagination, but The Old Leather Man was real, living person.

And because of that, we should let his mystery remain buried.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

England plans to sell all its public forests

forest, forests, sherwood forestEnglish environmentalists, hikers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and pretty much everybody else is up in arms about a UK government plan to sell off all the woodlands managed by the Forestry Commission in England, the BBC reports.

The Forestry Commission manages 18 percent of all England’s forests, some 2,500 sq km (965 sq miles). A portion of the forests are already being sold to raise £100m million ($159 million).

A public poll this week found 75 percent of the public against the move.

The plan will not affect forests in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This is the dumbest idea the UK government has come up with since selling the Royal Mail. Forests are a national heritage, not something to be sold off by privileged members of government to their old classmates from Eton. The government says that environmental and public use rights will be protected but, to use an English phrase, that’s a load of bollocks. Once the forests are in private hands, it will be much easier for private interests to undermine the laws governing them, or simply ignore the laws if the fines come out to less than they’d make turning the forests into shopping malls and housing developments. This is already standard practice in Spain, and it has ruined some of the best stretches of the Mediterranean coastline.

As a hiker who loves England’s woodland, I have grave concerns over what this will mean for people from England and around the world who go to the woods to see some of England’s most beautiful spots. A few hundred million pounds in the government’s pocket will not solve the economic crisis, or save national health care, or pay off the national debt, but it will mean that the heritage of the English people may disappear forever.

[Image courtesy user ntollervey via Wikimedia Commons]