The ‘Charging Bull’ angrily stared at me. What a beautiful, fierce creature the artist, Arturo Di Modica, had created. A Bronze beauty.
My twenty-something self walks past after a shift that I had picked up at TGIF in the Financial District. It was one of three TGIF’s that I was working at at the moment. Taking a full load of credits at school, working whatever shifts I could manage, my credit cards maxed out, and I had borrowed more money from a friend than I would be making in over 6 months. So getting paid back wasn’t looking good for her…
At that time, I didn’t know the artist. I didn’t know his intent. Nor did I care. I knew my reaction to it. Knew that I feared what the beautiful bull represented to me. I was afraid that I would never be as strong as it was. Afraid that I would never catch up to where everyone else my age seemed to be. Afraid that I would never find my way.
Arturo Di Modica probably wouldn’t agree with my interpretation. He has said that ‘Charging Bull’ was created to show the strength of the American people. To him, the American people are ‘Charging Bull.’
To me, after a double shift, exhausted physically and mentally, ‘Charging Bull’ looking like he was going to knock the s**t out of me reminded me of how knocked down I already felt. ‘Charging Bull’ was too strong. Confident. Poised. And too ready to attack.
I envied that confidence. And I didn’t have it so it made me feel small.
Then last month, for the first time ever, ‘Charging Bull’ made a friend.
Or an enemy.
‘Fearless Girl’ was installed.
And that scared twenty-something inside me sees this and says “oh f**k yessssssssssssss!” Not only because my twenty-something self did a lot of cursing, but also because this little girl, this fearless girl…she is in me. I just needed to find her.
But not only is she in me. She is in girls who have seen a lot worse than I have. She is in girls who don’t have a friend who will bail them out and lend them some money or family to fall back on.
‘Fearless girl’ is every little girl who poses next to this statue-chest puffed out, staring down a fricken’ bull. She is power in the face of adversity. She is a fighter. She is everything that I didn’t believe that I could be as that bull stared me down over ten years ago. And she is everything that I hope I am raising my daughter to be today.
Arturo Di Modica doesn’t like her. He says that “Fearless Girl” doesn’t belong there and he wants to have her removed. She has changed the meaning of his work, turning ‘Charging Bull’ into a villain representing greed, patriarchy and gender inequality. I personally would argue that ‘Charging Bull’ was always a bully. But Arturo does have a very good point. If someone sculpts an ant and then someone else comes along and sculpts an elephant stomping on the ant, the second artist has most certainly changed the meaning of the first sculpture.
‘Fearless Girl’ was commissioned by a large investment firm. The intent of the firm was to promote gender diversity. And of course, to promote themselves. The artist, Kristen Visbal, has said “‘Charging Bull’ represents the financial community. We are making the statement that women are a part of the business community on a global scale and that little girls will be leaders.”
Petitions circulate to keep ‘Fearless Girl.’
Arturo Di Modica threatens to sue the city if she isn’t removed.
And at the edge of NYC, in 2017, we now have a philosophical question of art: What matters more-the artist’s intent or the viewer’s interpretation? Once an artist gives their work to the world, do they have the right to say how it is used?
I know the answer that my mind gives.
But all my heart sees is thousands of little girls that will pose next to this statue-standing tall, pride emanating through their bodies as, even for just one moment, they feel the confidence of facing down a Bronze Bull.
And that moment may be just the one that those little girls need.