10 Unintentionally Horrifying Statues of Famous People

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Having a statue erected in your likeness sounds like it would be an honor. But when the end result leaves you looking terrifying for all eternity, it's worth considering that sometimes it's not the thought that counts. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo learned that lesson the hard way back in March when a bust made in his not-so-likeness was unveiled at Madeira International Airport, to celebrate the airport's new name: Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo. Fortunately for Ronaldo, a new and improved bust was just revealed:

Not every celebrity has been so lucky.

1. LUCILLE BALL // CELORON, NEW YORK

This statue in the beloved comedian's hometown became a source of rancor when it was first erected in 2009. "Scary Lucy," as she quickly became known, even inspired an online campaign "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue." As it turns out, everyone thought the statue was an abomination—even the man responsible. In 2015, artist Dave Poulin issued a public apology saying, "I take full responsibility for 'Scary Lucy,' though by no means was that my intent or did I wish to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image." Earlier this year, tired of the ongoing conversation about "Scary Lucy," Poulin retired from sculpting altogether. His public admission that the statue really was awful paid off. In 2016, a new statue—this one created by Carolyn Palmer, who beat out more than 65 sculptors in a national competition to create the upgraded Lucy—was unveiled.

2. KURT COBAIN // ABERDEEN, WASHINGTON

In Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, the late singer's February 20th birthday is "Kurt Cobain Day." As part of the initial festivities, the town unveiled this somber statue of the singer, which notably features a single tear. Artist Randi Hubbard began work on the sculpture shortly after Cobain's death in 1994. Sometime in the past two decades, she'd offered the work to the city who, at the time, refused. Their conviction has since wavered.

3. ARTHUR ASHE // RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Arthur Ashe Statue

rvaphotodude, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1996, Arthur Ashe's hometown of Richmond erected a statue in his likeness on Monument Avenue, despite controversy that a sculpture of the tennis great didn't belong alongside the existing congregation of Confederate icons. But the bronze memorial, cast by Paul di Pasquale, is bizarre for more than just its location. In an attempt to capture Ashe's dedication to social activism, he is shown holding books and a tennis racket high above the outstretched arms of a gaggle of children, frozen forever in a state of seemingly mocking them for their lack of height.

4. JAMES DEAN // LOS ANGELES

View of a statue of James Dean at the Griffith Observatory
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

James Dean himself commissioned the bust that stands as his memorial at the site of several key scenes from Rebel Without a Cause. But perhaps because artist Kenneth Kendall began work the night Dean died, the actor ended up looking downtrodden. In 1988—33 years after Dean's death—Kendall donated the sculpture to the Griffith Observatory.

5. WALTER JOHNSON // WASHINGTON, D.C.

Walter Johnson Statue in washington DC

Wally Gobetz, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

"It just doesn't work," Walter Johnson's grandson and biographer, Henry Thomas, said of the attempt to show motion in his grandfather's statue. The multi-armed likeness of the late Hall of Fame pitcher, the work of sculptor Omri Amrany, was erected outside Nationals Park in 2009.

6. OSCAR WILDE // LONDON

Oscar Wilde statue in London

Drinks Machine, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

In a sculpture by Maggi Hambling, the bust of the brilliant Irish author rises out of a sarcophagus-style block. As if that wasn't creepy enough, his mangled bronze features actually look like something that has risen from the dead.

7. ST. BARTHOLOMEW // MILAN

The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral

carolyn_gifford, Flickr // CC BY NC-2.0

The oldest statue on this list was cast by Marco d'Agrate in 1562 to honor the only saint to have been skinned alive. And if you're an artist, how could you pass up a graphic opportunity like that? The statue of St. Bartholomew presiding over the Milan Cathedral is not only skinless, he is literally carrying his own skin, identifiable by the face and feet on either end.

8. FRANZ KAFKA // PRAGUE

In the Jewish Quarter of Prague, where Franz Kafka spent most of his life, a sculpture by Jaroslav Rona stands as a memorial to the influential author—or to giant, headless, handless, well-dressed men everywhere. A miniature Kafka sits perched on the shoulders of an ominous empty suit that looks to be lumbering toward the viewer.

9. SAINT WENCESLAS // PRAGUE

In Wenceslas Square, a statue of the eponymous patron saint of Bohemia is shown, in typical form, atop a gallant steed. Inside Lucerna Palace mere yards from the original, a parody of this statue by David Černý also depicts Saint Wenceslas and a horse. Only this time the horse is upside down—and dead. If the juxtaposition doesn't freak you out, the lolling horse tongue will.

10. MICHAEL JACKSON // LONDON

Michael Jackson Statue in London
Ian Walton/Getty Images

This slightly smirking, colorful rendition of the late King of Pop was actually deemed so creepy—and controversial—that it was removed in 2013. The former owner and chairman of the Fulham football team, Mohamed Fayed, commissioned the statue, which stood outside the Craven Cottage stadium from 2011 through late 2013 when new owner, American businessman Shahid Khan, heeded the public opinion and had the statue removed and returned to Fayed.

9 Facts About Vincent Van Gogh

A self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is displayed on a screen in Rome in 2016
A self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is displayed on a screen in Rome in 2016
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh came to art relatively late, only deciding on it as a career at the age of 27. Now his post-Impressionist paintings of sunflowers, night skies, and the landscapes and people of Provence in southern France are among the most recognizable artworks in the world. But mental health issues, a lack of fame during his lifetime, and the infamous moment his ear was cut with a razor have made his story a compelling, complex narrative. Here are nine facts about the celebrated Dutch artist.

  1. Vincent van Gogh was an art dealer before he was an artist.

Before becoming an artist, Vincent van Gogh joined the art firm Goupil & Cie in The Hague in 1869 at the age of 16. In 1873, he was sent to London to work for the firm. His brother, Theo, worked for the same company in Brussels. While Theo thrived, Vincent struggled as an art dealer, and cared little for the commercial side of art. In 1876, he was fired. He then did some teaching and tried for a career as a preacher, like his father, but his first attempt at missionary work in a Belgian mining village was a failure. After six months, he'd made so little headway the evangelical committee that had sponsored him decided that he was unfit for the work.

  1. Vincent van Gogh was largely self-taught.

Vincent van Gogh at the age of 19
Vincent van Gogh at the age of 19
J.M.W. de Louw, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Although van Gogh had short stints at art academies in Brussels and Antwerp, it wasn't a good fit—the teachers didn't like his style, and he didn't appreciate their traditional teaching methods. Over three months in Paris in 1886, artist Fernand Cormon mentored van Gogh in sketching studies of models. These brief experiences were the bulk of his art education. Instead, he focused on training himself: Early in his career, he created hundreds of drawings to play with ideas and develop his skills. He also spent hours studying drawing manuals and copying prints, including those of work by Delacroix and Rembrandt, to master his sketching technique.

  1. Most of van Gogh’s work was made in a single decade.

Van Gogh’s artistic career only spanned from 1880 to 1890. In that one decade, he created more than 2000 drawings, paintings, watercolors, and sketches. In the last two months of his life, while he was settled in Auvers-sur-Oise, he was prolific, making about a painting a day.

  1. Van Gogh only signed his first name.

Despite his late start as an artist, van Gogh was confident in his brand, and signed his paintings just “Vincent.” He may have chosen this shortened name because he knew his surname was difficult to pronounce (most people still don't give it the full "vun KHOKH" Dutch pronunciation). Or, he may have been inspired by his Dutch hero Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, who similarly only signed his first name.

  1. Japan inspired van Gogh as much as Provence did.

While living in Paris from 1886 to 1888, van Gogh acquired a collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, which influenced the aesthetics of his paintings. (A Japanese woodblock print of geishas appears in his 1889 Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear.) When he arrived in Provence and witnessed the weathered trees and soft light of Arles, he wrote to his brother Theo: "My dear brother, you know, I feel I’m in Japan." The colors in the paintings he created in Provence, particularly the blues, purples, and yellows, reflected the dominant palette of Japanese prints of the time. He also adopted the skewed perspectives—such as in the 1888 The Bedroom—and the diagonal, streaking rain that he observed in Japanese prints. Although he never made it to Japan, his idealized vision of the country infused his early depictions of the south of France.

  1. Van Gogh's paintings today don't always look the way he intended.

Two of Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' paintings hanging side by side on display in London
Two of Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' paintings hanging side by side on display in London
Mary Turner/Getty Images

Synthetic paint tubes (a new invention dating to 1841) were increasingly available to artists in the 19th century, and van Gogh mixed their vivid hues with natural pigments. The lead-based chrome yellow gave his sunflowers their lively glow, while red made from cochineal insects were used as a warm texture in several paintings. However, his experimentation with novel colors means we sometimes don't see his paintings as he intended. The bright red geranium lake has faded from his wheat fields; a violet on the walls of the 1888 The Bedroom turned to blue as the red in the pigment dissipated.

  1. There’s much debate around the mutilation of van Gogh's ear.

One of the most well-known incidents in van Gogh's life was when he cut off his own ear on December 23, 1888, in Arles. How much he sliced off, and the circumstances of the mutilation, are still under debate. Some historians have posited that it was after a quarrel with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, as their friendship had rapidly deteriorated despite van Gogh’s hopes that they could form something of an artist community in Arles. Others have theorized that the act was in reaction to news that his beloved brother Theo was going to marry. By some reports it was just the earlobe, yet a sketch by Dr. Félix Rey, the physician who treated him, shows the whole ear being severed. Popular lore is that he presented the mangled flesh to a prostitute, but new research suggests it was a local farmer's daughter working as a maid in a brothel who was the unlucky recipient.

  1. Van Gogh's most famous artwork was painted in an asylum.

"This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big," Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in June 1889. Although he didn’t include it in The Starry Night which he painted that year, the window he described was iron-barred and looked out from the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum in southern France. He voluntarily admitted himself into the asylum on May 8, 1889. Created during this productive yet troubled time in van Gogh's life, the nocturnal tableau of curling pigment over a small village (which van Gogh largely imagined, with a church spire akin to those in his home country) is arguably his most famous work. It draws daily crowds in its current home, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

  1. Van Gogh's success was posthumous.

Vincent Van Gogh's gravestone in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village north of Paris
Vincent Van Gogh's gravestone in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village north of Paris
PIERRE-FRANCK COLOMBIER/AFP/Getty Images

Two days after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Vincent van Gogh died on July 29, 1890. Thanks to his constant correspondence with his brother Theo, later historians were able to reconstruct his biography, and recognize the essential support that his brother offered to Vincent. He had little commercial or critical success in his lifetime; the lore that he sold one painting while alive isn't completely true, but isn't that far off. (He sold at least two.)

But after his death, his star rose, helped significantly by his sister-in-law Jo van Gogh-Bonger. After Theo died in 1891, she inherited heaps of Vincent's art, and spent years organizing exhibitions, promoting his work across Western Europe, and getting his pieces in public art collections. In 1905, thanks to her efforts, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam hosted a retrospective. Now Vincent van Gogh exhibitions are blockbusters around the world. In 1990, his Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82.5 million at Christie's, setting a new record for a single painting.

A Resin-Preserved KFC Drumstick Can Be Yours for $100

Kentucky for Kentucky
Kentucky for Kentucky

Many devoted KFC fans love the chain's crispy fried chicken for its signature taste and mouthwatering aroma. If you just love the way the chicken looks, now you can keep it on your shelf to admire forever. As Food & Wine reports, Kentucky for Kentucky is selling whole KFC drumsticks encapsulated in resin for $100.

Kentucky for Kentucky, an independent organization that promotes the Bluegrass State, unveiled the jars of "Chick-Infinity" on its website earlier in June. The chicken pieces are authentic Colonel's original recipe drumsticks sourced from a KFC restaurant in Coal Run, Kentucky. While they were at their golden-brown peak, Kentucky artist Coleman Larkin submerged them in 16-ounce Mason jars filled with clear resin "with all the care of a Southern mamaw putting up greasy beans for the winter." 

KFC drumstick in a jar.
Kentucky for Kentucky

The project, part of Larkin's Dixieland Preserves line of Southern-themed resin encapsulations (which also includes the preserved poop of a Kentucky Derby winner), aims to present the iconic Kentucky product in a new way. "Honestly, is there anything better than biting into a warm, crispy KFC drumstick after a day at the lake?" Kentucky for Kentucky writes in a blog post, "we wanted to capture that feeling in a product that didn’t disappear into a pile of bones as soon as it’s opened."

Only 50 of the finger-licking artworks were created, and at $100 a piece, they're worth the price of several KFC family buckets. You can grab one while they're still available from the Kentucky for Kentucky online store.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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