The announcement yesterday from 46-year-old Connecticut-based sculptor Daniel Edwards -- that he'd created a (mostly) nude sculpture of teenage music superstars Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, and that it would soon be put on public display in an adult store right here in Dallas -- might have been a surprising alert from another artist. But, for Edwards, it's rather par for course.
Edwards has made a career out of such outlandish sculpting. In 2006, he made headlines for a nude Britney Spears portrait, a piece called "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston," which featured Spears on all fours, giving birth on top of a bearskin rug. A year later, he again made headlines for a Paris Hilton piece called ""The Paris Hilton Autopsy," which featured a dead Hilton and her dog. He's also sculpted a topless Hilary Clinton, Suri Cruise's first bowel movement, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the throes of love-making, Oprah Winfrey as a pharaoh, a dead Prince Harry and a near-dead Fidel Castro.
His work isn't all schlock -- he's done more standard portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, a series of hip-hop artists carved into metallic plaques, and he even calls a series of blues performer busts his "favorite" of his works. But, certainly, it's in schlock where he's made his name.
And he hardly seems ready to slow down on this somewhat scandalous front. Yesterday afternoon, after news of his latest shocking sculpture broke, we called Edwards at his Connecticut home to get the skinny on the piece -- and, in turn, Edwards revealed that the Bieber/Gomez piece, called "Justin and Selena as One," is just one of two Bieber-related pieces headed this way. Indeed, a second piece will be put on display at the West Northwest Highway location of area adult store chain New Fine Arts when "Justin and Selena as One" makes its debut in a few weeks -- this one a side-by-side comparison between a recreated sculpture of Jimi Hendrix's genitals and how Edwards imagines the 17-year-old Bieber's member appears.
Edwards attempts to justify his efforts -- expanding on an earlier Facebook release he'd put out -- as we spoke to him about both pieces. Read our conversation after the jump.
First of all, I guess, what's the inspiration here? I know your history. I've looked at your other stuff. Putting celebrities in nude situations is kind of what you do, from what I can tell. I hope I'm not offending you by saying that.
No, not at all.
So, with this particular one then, what was the inspiration? Why do this?
The initial thing was that I'd seen the patterns of young celebrities being turned into sex objects, and as soon as they turned 18, an adult situation crops up -- they've leaked a nude photo or something like that. They're put into that situation, and the press is kinda like vultures and they're waiting for that kind of thing. That celebrity is kind of courted. That was the initial thing. I see where all that's headed. Bieber's hooked up with Selena Gomez, who is a couple years older, and they're photographing him like crazy at the beach, and they're almost wearing nothing. So it's already started to happen. So I just kind of looked at it a little more carefully. I also think he's a very politically oriented type of kid; he's made some of the right comments, so I think I can work with this guy, in terms of a subject. He is from Canada, and I'd never thought there would be a time when the Canadian dollar was stronger than the American dollar. His talking about Canada's health care system being better is very interesting to me. As far as the nudity, it's just, as an artist, that's standard. It's conventional for any figurative artist. You're trained to work with the nude figure, so truthfully, me and all the other guys who are trained like me don't even think about that. But we know that it's pretty easy provocation for everybody else.
You mentioned the whole thing about the leaking of the nude pictures. And I get the nude form thing, too. But you mention that, with the leaking of the nude images, at the same time. And, I mean, he's 17. He's young. I imagine that had to have crossed your mind.
Well, just how provocative it would be to do a nude 17-year-old, even one that's a sex symbol of sorts.
Yeah, I'm playing on that. I'm just kind of chiming in and having my two cents, my say. How else do you comment on that topic without getting drowned out or ignored or sound like a broken record? This is kind of my way of expressing my thoughts about the subject.
What are the main differences between this one and, say, the Britney Spears or Paris Hilton ones that you've done. Does it differ? It's a nude celebrity, and in that sense it's the same. Is that your chosen forum? Is this different from those, and if so, how?
I would say that this one is pretty identical, actually. I don't know that there's any difference whatsoever. It's a different name, a different face. But I'm still doing the same thing. But there are different commentaries. Britney was a pro-life piece, it was a commentary on that. Paris Hilton was about celebrity excess, drunk driving and so forth. So those two topics have really stuck to the pieces when they're talked about. I think that this has the same kind of component. Part of it is the way young celebrities are treated and exploited. Part of it is an issue of Canada. I've always set out to only sculpt Americans, but I made an exception here. I've always had strong opinions about Canadians, quite frankly.
I saw a release about the piece where you do kind of talk about that, with Selena being from Texas, and him being from Canada. It said that maybe South and North Korea can learn from our relationship with Canada. You were having some fun with that, I guess. And, then, right at the bottom there... Am I seeing that right? Is that a Canada goose, um, mounting an armadillo at the bottom of your sculpture?
How does that come into play here? Do you always have animals involved?
I do! I do because, well, I'm not a huge wildlife lover or anything like that, but in sculpture, in monuments, there's always that kind of motif that's similar in composition. I always use it as a compositional device, and in this particular case, it's a way to be suggestive without crossing lines with an underage person. It's just a way to be suggestive. I was having fun with that, yeah.
This certainly seems to be where you got a lot of your attention, this type of work. Is this what you're working on as a whole, or are you doing less, well, scandalous items?
You can think of this as a series, I guess. I've done other series as well. I've got one called Blues Heads, where, for about 10 to 15 years, I traveled around and sculpted portraits of old blues guys. That's actually my favorite series. It's a very serious look at those guys. I did them backstage, did them at shows. Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner -- 21 of those, and all of that caliber. Many of them are dead now. Over half of them are dead now, actually.
So this nude celebrity thing is just the latest series.
How did you come to decide on showcasing this piece in the New Fine Arts location here in Dallas?
[Laughs.] That's just one of those happy accidents.
How did that come to be?
Well, I thought about it like, "Where am I going to show the piece, debut the piece?" Selena is from Dallas, and we'd talked about showing something in Dallas before, and I thought, well, this is the perfect time for that. I looked for art galleries in that area. And, of course, New Fine Art came up on Google, and I saw it was an adult store, and I was like, "Oh! Perfect!" I've already shown my portrait of Hillary Clinton at the Museum of Sex in New York City. So I've kind of already got a reputation in that area, I guess. It just sounded good.
The quote from the manager at New Fine Arts about the upcoming display was pretty priceless. He really wanted you to know that it isn't a traditional gallery...
Yeah! [Laughs.] I just thought it was a great place to put it.
So, do you yet know when it's going to come down here and get debuted?
Probably the end of the month. Or the beginning of September.
So in the next couple weeks, then?
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Your rep told me it's coming down here with a second Bieber-related sculpture you're working on -- one that will also debut down here.
You mean the private parts aspect of him?
Yeah. From what I understand, Jimi Hendrix is involved, too. You recreated the famous Plaster Caster sculpture of Hendrix's privates? And then you also imagined what Bieber's genitals might look like? What can you tell me about that?
Not too much. I'm basically trying to place Justin right next to Hendrix. But you can't chip away at Hendrix's legend. Even this wouldn't hurt Hendrix. It's strictly being audacious enough to say that Justin Bieber can hang with Hendrix.