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NYC artist’s statue ‘Witness’ to censorship from Texas anti-abortion group

Judah Duke

Shahzia Sikander’s “Witness,” the sculpture that was temporarily in Madison Square Park, has made its way over to the University of Houston, and with it came a protest from anti-abortion supporters.

Despite a university spokesman stating that the event at which the artist was going to speak was canceled “due to the unavailability of the artist.” 

“I did not ask for the opening event and artist talk at The University of Houston, scheduled for Feb 28th, to be canceled or postponed,” the artist said in an Instagram post.

In her artist statement, Sikander gave context on what the sculpture represents. The artist touched upon the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as inspirations.

She said she wanted the sculpture to represent the spirit and grit of those who continue to fight for equality.

Sikander did not say there was any spiritual inspiration involved. However, the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life is calling it a “satanic abortion idol” and said it should be taken down.

The group stated that “art should reflect truth, goodness, and beauty: three timeless values that reveal the nature of God.” 

In a statement released prior to the exhibition, the university warned that the statue may be controversial and offensive to some. 

“The form of the figure is stylized and enigmatic,” Sikander said. “It is female and fluid. Part of the body loops out and into itself, in place of arms and feet, offering a non-fixed idea to the notion of the body —something amorphous, like the self. It refuses to be fixed, grounded, or stereotyped.” 

Even with the cancelation of the event and artist talk, the artist still wants to reschedule the talk.

The University of Houston has no plans to remove the installation until its original date in October. 

The sculpture is part of Sikander’s exhibition “Havah…to breathe air, life” and features another statue titled “NOW.” 

The exhibition calls on Sikander’s Pakistani background and the feminist, environmental and Islamic themes she often explores in her work. It was first displayed in the eastern corner of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.

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Judah Duke
Judah Duke, Business Editor
Judah Duke is the Business Editor of the Ticker.
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