Hannah Shaban says whoever destroyed her outdoor sculpture on the UNC campus last weekend took something more personal from her than they knew.
Shaban, 25, worked on “Mars (Venus Reconstructed)” for months during her senior year. Some mornings, after sculpting up to 15 hours the previous day, she would wake with her fingers curled in.
The ceramic female nude, chest exposed, lower half draped, echoed the “Venus de Milo,” the Greek statue of Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans), goddess of love and beauty. Only it wasn’t “Venus” that Shaban modeled her piece on, but herself.
She chose her body, with uneven breasts, to show what real women look like, she said. She left the head off the torso so that women could see themselves in the work.
It had stood in the courtyard near the Hanes Art Center and the Kenan Music Building since 2013. This week it lay in pieces beside its base, the body shattered, the breasts missing.
“I thought something might happen,” Shaban said Wednesday, about installing the piece in such a public place close to Franklin Street. “But not something like this.”
The statue cannot be repaired, she said.
“It’s a very sad loss for that space, for the artist, for the Art Department, for the university,” said Emily Bowles, spokeswoman for the nearby Ackland Art Museum.
Campus police are investigating.
Shaban, who now works at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, had received a $3,000 grant to make the sculpture, part of an independent study.
“Even without a face and it just being my body, I was putting a little bit of myself out there,” she said. “Granted, the viewer doesn’t know it’s me, but I do.”
“That’s what makes it even more of a violation,” she said.
Many women have breasts that are different cup sizes, so she hoped “when girls looked at it (they thought) ‘it’s like me, too.’ ”
The skin on the back of the sculpture was peeled back, like a dress ripped open, to show how society molds and remolds women with changing standards of beauty.
Shaban remembers how a speaker during UNC’s freshman orientation had asked students what their “Tar Heel print” would be when they graduated.
“I left a sculpture of me, basically, on the campus,” she said.
Mark Schultz: 919-829-8950
‘Just breaks my heart’
Artist Hannah Shaban posted this message with photos of the statue on Instagram on Tuesday
“To whomever destroyed my sculpture, there is a special place in hell for you. In one thoughtless, selfish act you took something that meant the world to me. This piece was supposed to remain as my mark on the UNC campus for a lifetime. It was an honor to receive the grant to create this and in one moment, it was taken away from me. What disturbs me most is that they took the breasts with them. I hope they find out who is responsible because someone should be held accountable for this. Just breaks my heart. @uncchapelhill if anyone has information on this, please speak up. You can’t even begin to imagine what it took me to create this and what it meant to me.”