2 vandals smash controversial art Sculpture of fingers at institute destroyed

camera tapes crime

March 09, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Two people, who left a note saying "Love America for what it is, not for what you want it to be," destroyed the controversial sculpture "Fingers of Fear" in front of the Maryland Institute, College of Art early yesterday morning and were videotaped in the act, according to Baltimore police and the artist.

Surveying the scattered pieces of his wrecked sculpture yesterday morning, artist Steve Jones said he was angry and "freaked out" when he saw the damage shortly after the crime was committed at 1: 30 a.m. He and friends were returning home from a bar when they noticed a group of art students gathered around the median strip of Mount Royal Avenue where the sculpture was displayed.

Police said yesterday they had made no arrests and knew of no suspects in the case.

Institute officials said that the video, from one of several cameras used to monitor the area around the school's buildings, showed that it took only 10 seconds for the vandals to do their deed. Both vandals were running, as one knocked the fragile sculptures down and the other jumped on each to ensure its destruction.

"We're still gathering information," said Martha Gatewood, the college's acting director of security.

"It goes without saying that it's unfortunate that they destroy people's artwork, no matter what they think of it," said Fred Lazarus, president of the institute, after inspecting the damage. Lazarus, who has been the institute's president for 19 years, said, "I can't remember anything out there [on Mount Royal Avenue] that's ever been vandalized."

Jones said other pieces of his work on the median strip, including a sculpture of two brown dogs, were untouched.

The 22-year-old artist was asked Thursday by institute officials to remove one of the fingers in the pink ceramic and concrete sculpture. The offending finger, which was depicted with a condom over it, could easily be mistaken for something else, institute officials decided. He had put the sculpture in place a week ago.

The request to remove the finger with the condom resulted from complaints by neighbors, particularly parishioners of nearby Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, Jones said. An elementary school and a senior citizens home are nearby, in addition to several businesses.

Jones initially moved the offensive finger to a less visible location on campus, but he later placed a black shroud over it and returned it to the median strip.

A resident of the Bolton Hill neighborhood, Sharon Green, passed by yesterday and said that while the "Fingers" were "not my kind of art, it didn't offend me. This [vandalism] offends me. It's cruel and heartless. That boy [Jones] has got tears in his eyes."

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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