Tree baby art sparks row

IOL | Cape Times | Zara Nicholson:


An artist who used a 100-year-old oak tree as her canvas by placing five baby dolls climbing up its trunk says she is appalled at the level of intolerance in her community.

Barking up the wrong tree: Noordhoek artist Karin Lijnes stands by her art sculpture tree babies at the Noordhoek Common which has raised the ire of some residents who asked that it be taken down. Photo: Brenton Geach

The artwork called tree babies by Noordhoek artist Karin Lijnes was put about 15 metres up on the tree in January but it has raised the ire of two residents who called it “ugly” and said it reminded them of a horror movie.

The artwork consists of five porcelain sculptures of baby dolls climbing the tree with one wearing a gas mask and others with missing limbs.

Lijnes, an artist for 25 years, said she did the piece as a “surprise element” in a public space.

She said she was appalled by the level of intolerance in her community as she was asked by the Noordhoek Common Committee to take down her sculptures.

This past week, one of the “babies” was also vandalised.

The committee said it asked Lijnes to take down the art as she did not formerly apply to have the artwork displayed.

Lijnes said: “I did it as a thing for people to discover as they walk through the common and to inspire wonderment to get people thinking how it got there and who did it.”

Lijnes said she had received permission from one of the committee’s members, Keith Gurney who even helped her put up the sculptures.

“Then I was told by the committee that it had to come down because one person complained that it was controversial, it reminded them of a Stephen King novel and it did not fit the wholesome family image for the Common,” Lijnes said. She said she had many positive responses from other creative people.

“The common is a public space for all people and asking me to take it down does not make me feel like part of the space. The art is about our vulnerability as people and we all are broken in some way, that’s life and it seems people don’t want to see that at the common,” she said.

“Art is subjective and I don’t mind criticism but there was no discussion, it must just be taken down.

“I don’t think it’s controversial and I find the level of intolerance in my community unsettling,” she said.

Lijnes, however, said that she would take the sculptures down.

Chairman of the Noordhoek Common Committee Chris Strangway-Dixon said the issue was not the artwork itself, but the fact that Lijnes did not follow procedure to install the piece as everyone else did for horse rides, birthday parties or film shoots.

Strangway-Dixon said: “No formal request came to the committee and this is about following procedure and rules for the place to control what happens at the common.

“We are not opposed to art but we are entrusted with managing the common. It is not about intolerance at all,” Strangway-Dixon said,

Gurney, who Lijnes said she obtained help from, said he had given her permission but that her artwork was installed at a time when the current committee was not in place.

He said the matter would be discussed at next week’s committee meeting.

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