A wooden statue of US First Lady Melania Trump has been set ablaze in her hometown in Slovenia.
The statue was made by a Slovenian pipe layer and amateur chainsaw sculptor called Maxi, but commissioned by American-born, Berlin-based artist Brad Downey. He erected the sculpture on top of a tree trunk close to the town of Sevnica, Melania’s birthplace. Carved out of wood, the monument was a rudimentary representation of Melania Trump in a pale blue coat, similar to the one she wore at her husband Donald Trump’s inauguration. The arson took place on 4 July, US Independence Day.
Downey has since arranged for the blackened statue to be removed. “I will have to come back with a conceptual, artistic reply to [the arson] to keep the conversation going,” he told The Calvert Journal.
Downey commissioned the statue amid ongoing debates on curbing immigration to the US. “With the caricatural immigration political debate [in the US], I felt compelled to speak about the politics of my birth country,” Downey said. “I took Melania as a contradictory talking piece since, in the context of the recent xenophobia, anti-Islamic sentiment, and the Mexican border events in the US, she is an immigrant herself, and does not speak English as a first language.”
Downey says he chose to work with Maxi — who was born in the same month, year, and the same hospital as Melania — because he has the same age and background, is also working class, like her parents, yet has had a very different life path to her. “To me, it was important to have the sculpture rooted in the same way as Melania and Maxi,” Downey explained.