A 45-foot tall statue of a nude woman will soon join Washington, DC's historic monuments. Artist Marco Cochrane is erecting the massive figure for a Burning Man-style event called Catharsis on the Mall. The four-day long festival, which starts in November, seeks to "facilitate healing for each other and our society at large."
Cochrane says the sculpture, which will be visible from the White House, is meant to symbolize the need for women's equality. The statue, titled R-Evolution, was previously shown at Burning Man in 2015 and will be at the National Mall for four months. R-Evolution will also be the site of a 24-hour vigil for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Over the phone, I talked to Cochrane and his creative partner Julia Whitelaw about the project. Cochrane said that he was made aware of how women are silenced and objectified at a young age when his childhood friend was raped. Through his art, he hopes to do his part in sending a corrective message.
Cochrane, who has made two other large-scale sculptures along with smaller works, says when women pose for his work, he asks them to express themselves however they want. The 45-foot tall piece is inspired by a woman named Deja Solis. "My sculptures imagine what the world would be like if women were safe," he explained.
Whitelaw says the large sculpture on the Mall also represents the need for women to have a "seat at the table" in politics. "We need to work with women," Cochrane added. "There's no way we can solve this without them."
It's a noble idea, though some might find hypocrisy (or at least irony) in the fact that a giant feminist statue that's calling for women's work to be valued was sculpted by a man. When asked about this, the couple was adamant that the circumstances of R-Evolution's creation did not contradict its message.
"The statue embodies the model. The pose, the statement, and the meaning is all her," Whitelaw answered when I brought up the question. "[Cochrane] is a man saying 'I saw you and I am listening to you. I'm amplifying your voice.' He's saying, 'Men are responsible for crushing you so I'm doing the opposite.'"
"No one wants to talk about violence against women. Women don't even want to talk about it," Cochrane said. "[Violence against women] wasn't in the zeitgeist until recently. My work is about looking at it."
"People don't see women as people because they have female bodies," he added. "We need to solve that."
Whitelaw and Cochrane hope that when festival goers flock to Washington for Catharsis on the Mall, people will experience the statue beyond its giant, naked figure and "feel the emotion that Deja [the model] is expressing."
They say the goal is to "create an experience of what we want the world to be like."
Cochrane elaborated on their vision of an ideal world: "You guys don't even know what it's like to not have your body be this dominant thing in your expression of self. I've talked to hundreds, thousands of women about this," he said. "I go through my life with no judgement. People just listen to what I say. I think [sexism] is much more important to look at than women realize. [Women] think it's normal to be afraid of walking into a parking garage. Well, I don't worry about it at all."