Responding to complaints about a sculpture meant to honor comedian Lucille Ball in her hometown, artist Dave Poulin says he'll fix it for free. "I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy,' " he says, adding that he didn't mean "to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image."
Poulin's response, expressed in a letter, follows a grass-roots movement against his bronze statue of Ball that caused dismay, and reportedly some fear, after it was installed in a park in the village of Celoron, in western New York, in 2009. He sent copies of his letter to The Hollywood Reporter and other news outlets.
The level of invective directed at the work surprised him, Poulin said. He also acknowledged that when he created the sculpture, he struggled with the project, finding that he "came up short, and was not able to rise to the challenge."
Saying that he doesn't promote himself as "a 'great' artist," Poulin said he is "heartsick at the feelings that have been evoked as a result of the Celoron Lucy."
For many of the statue's critics, their dislike of the piece begins with the observation that it doesn't resemble Ball. That, along with other elements — "vacant eyes" and a "nightmare" grin are often mentioned — make the bronze statue too much to bear for fans who recall Ball's unique charm and wit.
A Facebook page was created to protest the work and call for its replacement. Titled "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue," the page posted photos of alarmed-looking people posing alongside the statue. Since the story became popular late last week, Photoshopped images have popped up showing the statue's face on iconic images.
One of the first postings on the page was simple: a photo of the statue at night, with the caption "This is unacceptable!"
The original sculpture was commissioned by a couple who live in Celoron who had hoped to honor Ball and her ties to the village. They donated the work so it could stand in the public Lucille Ball Memorial Park.
The offer to remake the sculpture at no charge is a turnabout for Poulin, who had previously told Celoron Mayor Scott Schrecengost that he expected to be paid for any work on the controversial sculpture.
"It would be a lot of money," Schrecengost told The Post-Journal in nearby Jamestown earlier this month. "Over the past couple of years, I've reached out to Dave Poulin, and have had at least four conversations with him about redoing the statue. He finally came back and said he wanted $8,000 to $10,000 to do it."
The anonymous person behind the Facebook campaign welcomed the news of Poulin's plan — but they also say he's not the right person for the job. Instead, they suggest starting a fundraising page to pay for a new sculpture of Ball.
"I am not trying to disparage Mr. Poulin," the Facebook campaign's creator wrote in an earlier post. Referring to the sculptor's website, they wrote, "As you can see he is capable of creating some wonderful art."
Of the uproar over the sculpture, the person, who says they're from Jamestown, wrote, "I had NO IDEA ... in my wildest dreams.... did I ever imagine that it would go viral like it did. It has been a very intense, very overwhelming experience for me."
Even as he promised to revamp the sculpture, Poulin sought to explain his position.
"It puzzles me when an art work is donated to a community, they accept it, and then get angry and insist you redo the art work at your own expense," he wrote. "To create a life-size bronze is a consuming and expensive endeavor."