“I thought I was living in a free country,” says artist David Smith about a controversy brewing over his statue.
Paulden, Arizona is a small and quiet community, but lately there's been some chatter over the new guy in town: a 9-foot tall metal gargoyle with a wingspan of 13 feet.
“It kind of symbolizes fire, because I work metal and fire has it's own spirit,” Smith says.
Smith just moved into the neighborhood, and he says, the day after he put up his prized possession, the county told him to take it down. “They don't like it? Don't look,” he says.
But, it's not the size of the whole statue that has the county up in arms; it's the size of something else, and let's just say it is in proportion to a 9-foot tall man.
“It just seemed like it needed to be there. I don't like Ken dolls,” Smith says.
That's right, – the sculpture is a full-frontal display of a nude male gargoyle. “It wasn't put on there to offend anybody. That isn't the reason. Everything has a sex,” Smith says.
Smith says the statue was at his Phoenix home for six years and nobody complained: “Most people liked it.”
But, some in the community say this is a huge deal, and the county agrees…saying this is no laughing matter. “The frontal nudity of the statue was offensive, and they were concerned their children walking by it,” says Steven Mauk, a Yavapai County official.
Officials have told Smith that the statue needs to be taken down or removed from public view, or he'll face a fine of $1,000, but Smith says the statue is an extension of himself, and they're not going away so easily. “If this is incompatible, I'm incompatible. I honestly thought I had freedom of speech, and I will fight this. I won't let them take it away from me: something I worked too hard on,” he says.
Because of Smith's appeal, the county will reconsider its original ruling. That means the statue stays at least until the hearing in July.