“Satanic” sculpture beheaded at University of Houston

July 11, 2024
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The sculpture “Witness” came to the University of Houston after an installation at its original home in Madison Square Park in New York.

A sculpture at the University of Houston, previously protested by some Christian and antiabortion activists, was beheaded Monday, The New York Times reported.

Campus police have footage of a vandal attacking the artwork, university administrators told the artist, Shahzia Sikander.

“It was a very violent act of hate, and it should be investigated as a crime,” Sikander told the Times.

The statue, called “Witness,” features an 18-foot-tall woman with thick gold braids that resemble rams’ horns and arms and legs that look like roots. The woman is wearing a hooped skirt with mosaic details and a collar interpreted as an homage to the distinctive lace judicial collars worn by the late U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The sculpture is a temporary installation in the Public Art of the University of Houston System collection.

Antiabortion groups on and off campus objected to the artwork, with some claiming it contained “satanic imagery” and pro–abortion-rights messaging. The university canceled an artist talk introducing the sculpture amid the uproar in February but claimed the decision was unrelated to the backlash.

Sikander told The New York Times that the statue was meant to represent women’s power in the justice system rather than a specific commentary on abortion or Supreme Court justices.

University leaders have not confirmed whether the vandalism is connected to activism against the statue.

“We were disappointed to learn the statue was damaged early Monday morning as Hurricane Beryl was hitting Houston. The damage is believed to be intentional,” Kevin Quinn, executive director of media relations for the university, said in a statement to the Times. “The University of Houston Police Department is currently investigating the matter.”



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