I commenced a five month residence in Humboldt County of California at the very time of the first successful attempt of numerous, in 112 years, to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the Arcata Plaza. When removed, on February 28, 2019, he became the first statue of a President ever removed from public view in the United States.
He fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War.
More a mascot than a statue, he has been defaced, had cheese stuffed in his nose and ears, had condoms applied to his thumb, and ritualistically climbed as a rite of passage for neighboring Humboldt State University students for decades. In 2003, his thumb was sawn off and stolen; later it was returned and reattached. He also has a long history of holiday pageantry, in which community groups decorated him as everything from a bell ringer to a choir boy in white face.
This work is a conceptual journey through removal, revision, and occupation. Employing re-photographed historic imagery, interviews, social histories, news clippings and my photographs, it weaves together an examination of the issue of monument removal in the United States, and points out the frequent absence of fact in an emotionally cause-driven era, that may usher in the death of memory of the ill-acts of our forbearers.
But the story of this statue, and this town, is very different from those in other places around the country, in that it is imbued with local histories of stolen first-peoples' land, horrific massacres, and an effigy of a president who never belonged there in the first place.
The full project will be posted here soon.