"Roseville: We've Got a Panera!"
Local eccentric artist gets into a legal wrangle with local politicos in dispute over artistic freedom.
Yes, I know he signed an agreement, but I'm siding with the artist on this one. Gonzo's a bit of an oddball, and while he's definitely not the second coming of El Greco, he's not Mapplethorpe(1), either.
Here's the dispute:
Inspired by the Italian master, Stross painted a partial rendering of Michelangelo's famous "Creation of Man" painting on the side of his art studio, Gonzo Fine Arts Studio, on the northwest corner of Gratiot and Utica. For about a year, the image of God, cherubs and Eve have greeted drivers. The original is in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
But Roseville city officials are not pleased. A topless Eve -- just as Michelangelo portrayed her -- violates a 1997 agreement between Stross and the city. At that time, the city granted Stross an exception to a city rule that limited a building's signage. But the deal was that he could not paint words, breasts or genitalia.
I've been by Gonzo's place at the corner of Gratiot and Utica at least once per week since I moved to the far end of the Eastside in 1998. I admit--I look for changes every time I pass by.
A topless Eve, and the Solons of Roseville are going to court to enforce the Iron Law of Signage against a straw hat-wearing artist with multiple sclerosis doing an homage to Michelangelo.
Sorry for the Howard Dean moment.
OK, as I see it, there are only two problems with the Solons' approach.
IT'S FREAKING ROSEVILLE!
Gonzo's mural is, hands down, the most interesting outdoor decoration in a Detroit suburb festooned with minimalls, car dealerships and gimmicky chain restaurants--Bennichilapplerubyby's, anyone?
Second (speaking of bullwhips), within one mile of the mural are two (2) adult novelty stores with mannequins in the front windows displaying a fine array of fetish gear. Right there on the main drag of Gratiot, one of the busiest streets in Metro Detroit. Between Gonzo's clEveage and the leather-clad torsos, I know which one I'm dreading my kids' questions about.
(1) Yes, I know--Mr. Mapplethorpe was a fine, even brilliant, photographer, the "Bullwhip--meet Butt. Butt--Bullwhip" thing notwithstanding. That's a little like saying "the neighbor's a fine fellow, the discovery-of-the-severed-heads-in-the-secret-basement-torture-dungeon-thing aside."