LAURINBURG — They say art is in the eye of the beholder.
To Mary Evans’ eye, at least one work of “art” at the Laurinburg Art Garden needs to go.
Evans, a former member of the county school board, told city officials this week that a new sculpture in the garden is sending the wrong message about violence.
The piece depicts what appears to be a tank shooting a flag out of its barrel that has the word “POW” painted on it. The “POW” flag is similar to fonts in comic books.
“It looks like something that is going to create war, death or whatever,” Evans told members of the Laurinburg City Council on Tuesday. “We don’t need that piece in our garden.”
Evans added that she has heard other people make similar observations.
Mayor Matthew Block asked Evans, a military veteran, if the work had caused her “any flashbacks.”
“It may be because I’m military …. the first thing that comes to my mind is that it is a tank with a missile-like object protruding from it that says “POW!” Evans said. “I don’t think it is appropriate at this time for our city. I think that it doesn’t represent our city. Our crime rate is already high and you don’t know what that may trigger in some people.”
But council members said they did not want to begin censoring art in the downtown garden. They added that the piece in question had been displayed on the campus of The Unversity of North Carolina for some time.
“I personally would hate to get in the position where we are the art critic police,” council member Drew Williamson said. “We assume these students will not put something that is suspect and I hate to find ourselves judge the appropriateness of each piece.
“If it is truly something that is offensive, I guess that is something Michael (Mandeville) can speak to them about it.”
Council member Dee Hammond said people will have individual ideas about what any piece of art might mean.
“I’m sure if you asked different people what they thought, you would have five of six different opinions about what that sculpture would represent,” Hammond said.
Council member Mary Jo Adams said the sculpture seems more playful than menacing.
“It looks like a cartoon,” Adams said. “It says Pow, like in Batman or Superman.”
The sculpture was done by UNCP professor Adam Walls, who has overseen the students who have created the art that is has been in the garden since last summer.
The new piece replaced one of the original sculptures that is being used as part of another exhibit.
“If we need to switch sculpture, we will figure it out, but I don’t think it was meant to be military-type deal,” said Michael Mandeville, community development director, who helped establish the garden. “It is just a piece of art.”