Almost exactly one year ago, an imposing, blocky figure took up its watch over the Slovenian town of Sevnica. Surveying her pastoral surroundings with impassive, lopsided eyes, she raised a crude, paw-like fist in a manner apparently meant to be friendly, but which read — at least to some — as faintly menacing. This log lady, hewn from the stump of a linden tree with a chainsaw, was supposed to recall Melania Trump on her husband’s Inauguration Day, only … was it? The statue’s looming presence has confused and polarized residents since it went up last July, but this past weekend, someone (or someones) took matters into their own hands.
The Melania statue was reportedly set ablaze overnight on the Fourth of July, and while local police have not shared any leads, Brad Downey, the Berlin-based American artist who commissioned the art, told Reuters: “I want to know why they did it.”
At present, possible motives are everywhere. Melania was born in Sevnica, population approx. 5,000; while many townspeople are reportedly proud enough of this connection to have named some salami after her, Melania never visits, and her absence could reasonably be interpreted as a snub. Also, when the statue went up (as part of a larger exhibit probing Melania’s “mysterious” pre-Trump life), locals described it as “a disgrace” and “a Smurfette.” Whether we should attribute their feelings to the statue’s somewhat frightening countenance, which Sevnica residents had to look at daily, or a feeling that Melania hadn’t been done justice by her chainsaw sculptor — Ales “Max” Zupevc, who had only done busts and vultures and other animals before carving a whole human, so be gentle — it is hard to say. And then, as Downey mused to the New York Times, the immolation could have been political. It happened on or around July 4, after all.
“There’s a lot of buzz around the destruction of monuments, so it could come from left-leaning people,” Downey said. “Or it could be from right-leaning people, because they don’t like how it looks or think it’s disrespectful, aesthetically.”
And indeed, anti-racist protests have seen a number of Confederate and culturally insensitive monuments come down across the U.S., a pattern that has angered the president. It is possible that the statue’s burning reflects similar discontent with his heavily xenophobic administration; it is also possible that the townspeople simply disliked living under the watchful wooden eye of a statue they neither wanted nor asked for. I mean, hypothetically, could you blame them?