Wall Street was dominated for years by a statue of a raging bull as aggressively masculine as the male-dominated culture surrounding it.
However, "Charging Bull" has been forced to share its stage since March with "Fearless Girl," a statue that began as an advertising scheme but has since become a powerful feminist symbol.
Like anything an empowered woman does, the statue received backlash, and one recent critique that took the form of a little dog relieving its bladder.
For about three hours on Monday, artist Alex Gardega kept his sloppily constructed statue of a dog squatted next to "Fearless Girl," and it looked a lot like it was peeing on her leg. Named "Sketchy Dog" by some and called "Pissing Pug" by its creator, the statue was apparently designed in an act of solidarity with Arturo Di Modica, the artist behind "Charging Bull" who is currently suing the company who commissioned "Fearless Girl" for trademark and copyright infringement.
"It had nothing to with feminism. It's corporate feminism," Gardega told the Boston Globe.
He explained that his urinating creation was an attack on how the placement of "Fearless Girl" "invades" the space of Di Modica's work. Di Modica's himself told reporters that he is angry at how the statue unfairly implicates his piece in Wall Street's sexist culture.
Gardega also stated he intentionally built his dog statue poorly in order to degrade the message of the feminist symbol.
“I decided to build this dog and make it crappy to downgrade the statue, exactly how the girl is a downgrade on the bull,” he told the New York Post.
"I have a lot of empathy for the creator of the bull, Arturo," Gardega told NBC 4. "I'm a pretty happy person, not seething or angry and certainly not anti-feminist. My piece is not without a sense of humor. There is plenty of room for Fearless Girl it just interferes with another artists (sic) work/vision."
While "Fearless Girl's" birth is tied to capitalism, art is seldom confined to its origin story. Like "Charging Bull," "Fearless Girl" has taken on a symbolism all her own and now interacts with the public in nuanced, ever-evolving ways. Kristen Visbal, the sculptor behind the statue, said she sees her piece as far beyond her influence.
"When you place a work publicly, you relinquish your control over the work," she told Philly.com. "Mr. Di Modica gifted his work to the American public, and we too have gifted "Fearless Girl" to the city of New York."
Gardega's response to "Fearless Girl," as well as Di Modica's, do little for the sake of their artistic integrity and a lot to prove the little girl's point. It's easy to claim this entire kerfuffle is about preserving art while taking a stand against corporate America when actually the heart of the issue is tied to feminism and a patriarchy-formed ego exemplified by a word Gardega chose to use in his interview with NBC 4: "interferes."
When Di Modica erected "Charging Bull" in 1989, it was an act of guerilla art, and so was Gardega's "Sketchy Dog." "Fearless Girl" was installed with city permission, and yet Gardega has the nerve to say that it is the statue that "interferes." It's a stunningly perfect example of male entitlement and fragility and how these misplaced feelings are one of equality's greatest hurdles.
Women are taking up more space on Wall Street and in American society, and by and large they're doing it by playing by the boys' rules. Yet a very real fear that sharing space equates to losing space lingers in far too many men. It'll take more of the fearless to quell it.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Anthony Quintano