MOUNT DESERT (AP) – A sculpture made out of buffalo and cow bones has caused a stir among residents who say the bronze “bone wall” is located too close to a veterans memorial.

The 36-foot-long wall of bones and five other pieces by sculptor Steve Tobin of Philadelphia was installed Wednesday for a summerlong exhibit on the village green of Northeast Harbor outside of the Veterans Memorial Park.

It wasn’t long before Polly and Harvey Heel beseeched Tobin to move the bone wall farther away from the memorial. They said it is disrespectful to place the bones so close to where the war dead are honored.

Polly Heel said she sees the bones of her father and uncle, who were killed during World War II, when she looks at Tobin’s sculpture.

“It’s very, very, very sensitive and painful for me to look at,” she said. “It reminds me that my father’s and my uncle’s bones are laying somewhere. And there’s nowhere I can cherish them, nowhere I can do honor to them.”

Polly Heel spoke quietly to Tobin about her fear that veterans will be offended by the proximity of the war memorial to his four-ton sculpture, which is made out of 1,000 bones that are encased in bronze.

Tobin, an acclaimed sculptor whose works have been exhibited around the world, twice changed the placement of the wall.

But the Heels wanted the sculpture moved behind some tennis courts, completely out of sight of the veterans park.

Tobin said he didn’t anticipate controversy over his bone wall sculpture because it has never been linked to wars or human loss. He said it represents the struggle of animals against man and the never-ending rebirth of nature.

Tobin said he is respectful of the Heels, but also hopes his artwork inspires the community to talk about death and the emotion and pain it carries.

“To bury our feelings about the loss of our loved ones is not good,” Tobin said. “I understand that for some people (the bone wall) brings pain closer to the surface, but do we hide our emotions? In the end, I think this debate will be healthy for the community.”

Harvey Heel, who served in the Korean War, had asked Mount Desert selectmen on Monday to make sure Tobin’s sculpture wouldn’t be seen from the memorial. He thought the board had agreed, but selectmen said they understood he had asked only that the sculpture not be within the peripheral vision of anyone visiting the monument.

Town officials who gathered Wednesday to watch the sculptures be installed said any art is going to provoke debate and differences of opinion. But they were confident that Tobin’s exhibit will be popular among residents and visitors and draw more people to Northeast Harbor.

Selectwoman Emily Damon Pascal worked with Tobin to make last-minute changes after being approached at the park by the Heels.

“I respect the people who are against it,” she said, “but this wall does not represent Cambodia. It’s art.”

AP-ES-06-19-03 1103EDT


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