Watch: Melania Resurrected, This Time in Bronze & with Controversy

Monday September 21, 2020

The bronze statue of Melania Trump that stands near her hometown in Slovenia.
The bronze statue of Melania Trump that stands near her hometown in Slovenia.  (Source:Fox News)

Two months after a wooden statue of Melania Trump was destroyed by arsonists near her hometown in Slovenia, it's been resurrected, this time in bronze.

"The new work — like the original — is a collaboration between Brad Downey, a Berlin-based artist from Louisville, Kentucky, and a local craftsman, Ales "Maxi" Zupevc, who have invited residents of Melania's hometown of Sevnica to see the work in nearby Rozno, south-eastern Slovenia," reports The Guardian.

"The bronze likeness has been placed on the same tree stump where the wooden statue stood before it was badly damaged. Modelled on the previous design, Downey has said he hopes it will now be harder to destroy."

Downey made a short, 12-minute film, "Melania," in 2019 that follows Zupevc's creation of the statue, which stemmed his finding kinship with the First Lady by being born in the same hospital. Downey, according to his Wiki entry, "orchestrated the creation of the first public sculpture of Melania Trump."


The wooden statue of Melania Trump. Screenshot from "Melania"

He chose Zupevc because of the similarities he saw between the artist and Melania, he told The Guardian. "I chose Maxi out of several local artists, because of the parallels between his life and Melania's," Downey said. "He was born in the same month and year and at the same hospital as her. Like her — her father was a mechanic and she grew up in a high-rise — he is from a working class family."

He only gave Zupevc a photo of Melania to work from, paid for the plot of land where the poplar tree stood from which the statue would be made, commissioning Zupevc — a part-time laborer for a utility firm and wood sculptor — to create it. Throughout the film Zupevc describes his hard life, coming to tears at one point for only wanting a Sunday off to spend with his wife.

"The carving stood in the field more or less unnoticed for a year, until Downey arranged an informal unveiling, after which it was picked up by the world's media who largely ridiculed it, drawing comparisons with everything from a smurf to a scarecrow," adds The Guardian.

"I didn't plan it as a meme," Downey insists, "though I suppose I was not really surprised that it was so meme-friendly." The locals with whom he was in contact, were appreciative of the monument. "They came to the unveiling and we ate cake — the local Melanja Tort with cream and nuts, and drank wine. My parents and wife flew over. People said they liked it," he said.

He's received negative responses from the Left and Right. "On the one hand were people criticising me, asking: 'why have you monumentalised this woman?', on the other, were people saying "she's far better looking than that." He plans on including this in his ongoing "Melania" video series.


Ales "Maxi" Zupevc in a screenshot from "Melania".

"When the wooden Melania carving was burnt in an apparent arson attack on 4 July this year — some locals," Downey says, 'suspect the CIA's involvement', continues The Guardian."Though the police have yet to find the perpetrators — he quickly removed the charred and blistered remains, which later went on display in an art exhibition."

"This object (the burnt statue) somehow represents a visual representation of political tensions that are erupting in my country and not only in my country," Downey told Reuters about the installation.

The new statue didn't come simply to replace the wooden one, rather it was part of Downey's original plan. He had already made a silicon cast of the original with thoughts of making an identical statue — in bronze — to sit near the original. Downey was in Slovenia when the pandemic started and has stayed there creating the bronze. His new work reflects the tradition of propaganda monument protocol, with a particular focus on Cold War era busts and statues which deified communist leaders. The new statue cost him 10,000 euros, reports the Slovenian daily, Dnevnic (via Google Translate).


The fire-damaged, wooden statue of Melania Trump being removed in a screenshot from Fox News.

Seynica is ground zero for Melania-mania. It is where she grew up and has received a commercial boom because of it. Brands have developed around her name. "Sevnica products have become popular on several world-renowned websites, and the brand includes, among others, Sevnica blue frankincense, traditional Sevnica salami, pastries, beauty creams, chocolates of special flavors and appearance, chocolate candies, apple slices in chocolate, herbal teas and unique earthenware cups. Among other things, Sevnica also offers Melanija cake, Melanija pancakes, Melanija dessert and Melanija pie," writes Dnevnic (via Google Translate).

So it is no surprise that the leadership of the Sevnica municipality responded to the installation of the sculpture with scorn. "We believe that the most beautiful monument is the attitude we cultivate and show towards our fellow human beings," they wrote in a statement on the new statue. "The monument that has already been erected, removed and now - as we have learned - re-erected does not contribute to this value. Moreover, we estimate that it is completely inappropriate, "they wrote. "We believe that such a position is shared by the majority of Sevnica residents."


Watch Brad Downey's film "Melania":


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