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Who is That Masked King? Olek and Virginia MOCA Disrobe Neptune

Who is That Masked King? Olek and Virginia MOCA Disrobe Neptune

Troubled waters here just off Virginia Beach as the tourist season kicks into high gear and families spend the day collecting seashells and the random plastic bottle cap that washes up on the sand.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

Street Artist Olek ran into a snag this week here as she and a team of volunteers made and installed a crocheted covering for Paul DiPasquale’s original statue of King Neptune that has been here a little over a decade. The two year process for the project with Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the New York based artist came to an inauspicious halt during the installation Wednesday when the inclusion of a rubberized gas mask caused a dispute that ended with King Neptune left to brave the elements in his raw mid-prime once again.

“Art is intended to be controversial. To some degree it’s intended to spark dialog,” MOCA executive director Debi Gray was quoted just last month when defending a couple of challenging artworks by artist Mark Ryden in “Turn the Page”, the museums’ Hi-Fructose 10th Anniversary exhibition, a show Olek is also a part of.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

Whether it was the prospect of another potential controversy so soon, an unapproved design change, or some other perturbed local gadfly whispering in her ear, the director and the museum were not letting the rubber mask go forward during the installation. With only about 60% of the installation completed, all of it came down, leaving the volunteers from the middle and high school and other local artists without the satisfaction of seeing the completed project for this week’s ArtWalk.

In terms of the interstitial approach to documentation that exists on The Internet, it doesn’t matter of course that the project was only partially up for part of one day because there were many good photos captured before it was disassembled, leaving the impression that Olek’s project was a success. Coming from the graffiti and Street Art milieu, we are all accustomed to the ethereal nature of art and our chance encounters with it. Not that this is much conciliation to those who had contributed toward the project.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

According to statements from the artist and the museum, it appears that the mask would have been allowed to go forward if it had been entirely crocheted – at least that is our reading of the situation. We asked Olek why the monarch of the waters was wearing a mask in the first place, she told us that it was a commentary on our collective responsibility for dumping all kinds of waste into the oceans.

“My mission was to deliver the strongest work that would bring awareness to Mother Nature’s current disturbing situation; namely, the alarming state of our oceans. I added the mask because it was made a strong point. Everyone including the executive director, Debi Gray, and both curators, Alison Byrne and Heather Hakimzadeh agreed that it was a brilliant idea.”

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Aaron McLellan)

“We placed a lot of trust in her and are dismayed that she would take advantage of that,” says Ms. Gray of the museum in an interview with local website WAVY.com. “Although MOCA and the city embraced her message of ocean conservation, the addition was not part of the approved proposal,” a statement from the museum said.

Comments sections on local website stories are mixed with anger at both parties, regret, indifference and naturally, some comments are unhinged, misinformed and completely hilariously unrelated. From our perspective, we’re sorry that an agreement could not be reached and it didn’t work out because we know what the power of art can be. That said, maybe there is a solution yet to be discovered! The summer has just commenced and the future is unwritten.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

Olek spoke with us about the situation and answered a few questions as well.

Brooklyn Street Art: Did the artist of the sculpture embrace your vision?
OLEK: The first person I contacted regarding the project, and then subsequently the Mask idea was of course the artist, Paul DiPasquale. He loved the idea of crocheting Neptune and agreed that the mask would make a stronger statement.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you have an agreement with the museum that was changed?
OLEK: I had an agreement with the museum and the only real issue that arose was the addition of a huge uncrocheted rubber mask. Initially the museum didn’t want the rubber mask to be included. However, after a number of meetings a compromise was made. The museum and I agreed that if the mask was crocheted, it would be acceptable.

Brooklyn Street Art: Aside from the difficulty of the events, do you feel disappointed that the piece will not be on display?
OLEK: The work created a dialog so I think the piece accomplished something. I hope art in general can inspire and initiate change. As I said in my statement:

“My work is never finished – the continuous response of the viewers makes the art.  My contribution is the tool that helps people realize their own expressions.  I hope that it proves that all things are interconnected.”

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Aaron McLellan)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

De-installation begins with the mask coming off as shown in the above picture.

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. (photo © Olek)

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Olek. King Neptune Intervention for Virginia MOCA. Virginia Beach. June 2016. The Team. (photo © Olek)

 

Our special thanks to Aaron McLellan and his company North End Bag Co. for additional images of them fabricating the mask. The rubber and the aluminum part was provided by Geoff Long.

Also included in Olek’s commentary to us about the project and related events:
This was not completed by the artist alone. MOCA and Olek would like to thank the many volunteers including students from The Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School and art students from Virginia Beach Middle School. They have spent countless hours to help create this work. They all came and crocheted without knowing what the final project would be. They lent their talent and trust in both MOCA and the artist, knowing that they were spreading a positive message of hope to our community and beyond.

 

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