Change of Heart

Ten years on, the divisive Male/Female statue earns reappraisal.

By Edward Gunts - February 2015

Locals Have Come to Admire Male/Female Statue

Ten years on, the divisive Male/Female statue earns reappraisal.

By Edward Gunts - February 2015

Cindy Kelly and Richard Cleaver outside of Penn Station. -Photography by Justin Tsucalas

When Jonathan Borofsky's Male/Female sculpture appeared in front of Pennsylvania Station 10 years ago, Richard Cleaver wasn't a fan. "I thought it was too large," he says.

But Cleaver, a contemporary artist who often takes trains to and from Penn Station, says he has changed his mind after repeated viewings.

"I realized it was the perfect scale," he says. "It needs the monumentality."

Cleaver joins a growing list of artists and scholars who have publicly boosted the often-maligned work. In fact, after a decade of existence—during which readers of City Paper more than once voted it Baltimore's "Best Eyesore"—it seems Baltimoreans are finally warming to the 51-foot tall aluminum sculpture with intersecting male and female silhouettes.

An early defender was Bill Griffith, creator of the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip, in which the statue has appeared. John Waters likes it, too.

"I love the arts," Waters said during a talk last fall at The Senator Theatre. "I even love the one in front of the train station here."

Experts say it's not uncommon for people to change their minds about art over time.

"The Eiffel Tower was detested" when it went up, says Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum. "Now it's an icon."

There is local precedent for public reevaluation, too. When the Lafayette Monument in Mt. Vernon was built in the 1920s, "people thought the base was too high and the horse was too energetic," says Cindy Kelly, author of Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City. "Now Mt. Vernon is inconceivable without it."

Rodney Cook, a local painter and art instructor, thinks context is one key to acceptance.

"The area has caught up with it," Cook says of the surrounding Station North neighborhood, which now boasts several new buildings and other public art. Or maybe we just needed time to adjust. "Familiarity can breed tolerance," Cook says, "and then maybe tolerance can breed appreciation."





You May Also Like


Arts District

The Big Baltimore Playlist: October 2019

The top five local songs you should download right now.

Arts District

Bands to Watch at Brilliant Baltimore

These local acts will be performing live throughout the one-of-a-kind festival.

Arts District

Center Stage's 'Thoughts of a Colored Man' Explores Nuances of Black Masculine Identity

Playwright Keenan Scott II shares his inspiration for the piece running through November 10.


Arts & Culture

Made in Maryland

Meet the makers who are keeping Baltimore's industrious spirit alive and well.

The Chatter

Catonsville Businesses Embrace Arts and Entertainment District Distinction

Historic neighborhood is the first in Baltimore County to be honored with official state designation.

MaxSpace

Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers is exactly what we all need right now.

Cindy Kelly and Richard Cleaver outside of Penn Station. -Photography by Justin Tsucalas

Connect With Us

Most Read


Boys' Latin Honors Military History with In-School Museum: At the Roland Park private school, wartime memorabilia forges lasting personal connections.

John Waters is the Newest Male Face of Nike: Waters is one of three celebrities chosen to be in '90s-inspired Nordstrom x Nike campaign.

What to Know About the Maryland Cycling Classic Coming September 2020: For starters, Baltimore's pro cycling event will be more than 100 miles long.

Kirby Lane Park Brings New Energy to West Baltimore Neighborhood: Formerly dilapidated site has become a hub for community engagement in Franklin Square.

Four Key Updates on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Here’s what the BSO has been up to since performances resumed in September.