Church leaders have demanded the world’s tallest ceramic structure is removed – as it is ‘offensive to God’ and brings a town ‘under the spiritual influence of an earth goddess’.
The controversial art art called ‘Earth Goddess’ was created by artist Sandy Brown to celebrate the heritage of China clay in St Austell, Cornwall.
After the £80,000 sculpture was first revealed in the town’s Aylmer Square on June 25, 2022, many people mocked its appearance.
Locals have relentlessly mocked the 11.5m high ‘eyesore’ – with some likening it to a kebab, a piece of child’s artwork, and even nicknaming a ‘The Pork Sword’.
Now religious leaders in Cornwall have shared their view on the brightly coloured 11.5-metre-tall statue and have written a letter to St Austell town council urging them to remove it.
The letter was signed by seven Christian leaders in the area.
It expressed concerns about the potential negative impact the statue could have on the town and urged the town council to make “significant changes” to the statue or relocate it.
It said: “The choice to erect a statue of an ‘earth goddess’ means that as the leaders of the town you are actively, though likely unknowingly, choosing to reject God and instead to bring the town under the spiritual influence of an ‘earth goddess’.
“We understand this may sound strange and may not be language that you are comfortable with.
“However, as Christians we believe there is a spiritual reality to our world and so this is not an insignificant choice and has the potential to impact on the town in negative ways.
“We would ask that you consider either making significant changes to the statue … or at the very least the name is changed so that it is an abstract piece of art with no spiritual element. Or that you consider removing or relocating the statue.”
The artist, Sandy Brown, admitted she felt “saddened and disappointed” at the reaction, explaining that her work was intended to celebrate “mother earth” rather than having any sort of religious message.
She explained: “I really wanted this sculpture to make an impact and for it to visually connect with St Austell’s rich China clay heritage.
“The Earth Goddess is made of the product, clay, which is so intrinsic to this place.
She added that the sculpture was also meant to celebrate the area’s strong links to the China clay trade and represent a love of mother earth.
Sandy said: “It’s my hope that she celebrates the town’s unique history and represents our collective and eternal roots with the environment, nature and mother earth.”
Richard Pears, a town councillor who was mayor when the plans for the sculpture were coming to fruition, also said he was surprised by the letter.
“Probably not since the Reformation has a group of churches written to a local authority demanding the destruction of public art on the grounds that it offends the Almighty,” he said.
“It all feels rather medieval.”
The statue, which aimed to put the Cornish town ‘on the map’ after three years of construction, has also been met with a petition earlier this month to have it removed.
Among those who signed the petition was one resident called it an “offence to god.”
They stated: “A commissioned artwork shouldn’t have any religious connotations which are now being imposed upon the town of St Austell.
“This is an offence not only to members of the public but also to God. Just imagine the amount of good that could have come from that £80,000 could have fed and homed homeless people.”
Another said: “Our town is named after a saint of the Christian faith, not a so-called earth goddess.
“What a waste of money anyway at these times of personal financial difficulty for so many. In a way, I am glad it doesn’t claim to represent the Saint as it would be a total misrepresentation of all the monks stood for.”
Described online as resembling a ‘giant Native American totem’, the statue is the crowning piece of the Austell Project’s Whitegold Ceramic Art Trail.
The project aims to “work with creative people, to make innovative and activated public spaces that use art and design to celebrate the culture of clay country, adding to a sense of place.
The statue stands taller than two double decker busses and was designed Ms Brown to “visually connect with St Austell’s rich China clay heritage”.
While some admired the design, many locals slated the statue online, with one woman posting: “Probably the most laughable thing in Cornwall. What a total joke.
“Did the residents actually pay for this? Kinda says it all really about the decision makers.”
St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double has also laid into the debate.
He said: “I appreciate art is subjective.
”I appreciate that there may be some people who like this statue, however clearly there are many who don’t.
”Personally, if I were involved in choosing something that reflects St Austell’s identity, heritage and history, I think it is fair to say I would not have chosen this design.”