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Manitou Art Center showcases previously censored sculpture 

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click to enlarge RHONDA VAN PELT
  • Rhonda Van Pelt

It took 25 years, but artist Sharon Carvell will finally get to display one of her sculptures in Manitou as she intended. In 1992, Carvell introduced controversy to the Sculpture in Manitou art show, staged in Memorial Park. Her work "Our Lady of the Pot" depicts a woman falling into a toilet, holding a sign that reads "Keep Abortion Legal" in one hand and poetry about abortion rights in the other.

"When a man leaves the seat up and a woman goes in, in a hurry, she pulls down her pants, and she sits down, and she falls into the pot," says Carvell. She says that toilet, like the sign, represents legitimate problems for women that are ignored or diminished by men — what lazy comedian hasn't quipped about leaving the seat up to call women hostile and irrational?

The five-artist panel that invited Carvell to participate asked her to stand the sign next to the piece, much less visible. An article in The Gazette, dated July 12, 1992, claims they were concerned her message would "overshadow the rest of the exhibit."

But now, as part of the Manitou Art Center's new First Amendment Gallery, Carvell will get to share her message as she'd hoped to originally.

Sadly, the piece remains relevant, as terrorist attacks against abortion clinics continue. Between 1977 and 2016, the National Abortion Federation reported 186 arsons, 42 clinic bombings, and eight murdered abortion providers, not including the 2015 shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, which resulted in three deaths. Recently confirmed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch has a record of undermining safe access to a wide range of reproductive health care — not just abortion.

"To me, it was necessary that I make a statement about women's rights and keeping abortion legal," she says. "Nobody looks at the fact that we, as women, should have the right to decisions about our bodies."

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