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November 2020

Artist Sues Trump’s Border Wall Contractors for Destroying His “Cheese Wall”

Just like with the destruction of 5Pointz in Queens, NYC, the VARA act may provide some justice to the destruction of the Cheese Wall --- Thank you to HyperAllergic for posting ---

 

A 70-foot wall made entirely of cheese, erected near the US–Mexico border as a critique of the current government’s immigration policies, has been destroyed — and the artist behind the work is suing Trump’s border wall contractors for allegedly dismantling it.

Cosimo Cavallaro began working on the sculptural installation, “Cheese Wall,” in March 2019. The Canadian-Italian artist leased a private property in San Diego County to create a barricade out of bricks of expired Cotija, a Mexican cheese named after a town in the state of Michoacan. Cavallaro’s often works with perishable materials to highlight the problem of waste, both in terms of material accumulation and financial extravagance.

In a complaint filed in San Diego federal court, Cavallaro claims that employees of the construction company SLSCO, hired by the Trump administration to fortify the US-Mexico border wall, “knowingly and willfully trespassed onto the site and destroyed the Cheese Wall” on or around October 2019.

Cosimo Cavallaro’s “Cheese Wall,” built of blocks of Cotija cheese, before it was destroyed. (photo by Alan Shaffer; courtesy of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP)

The suit rests on a potential violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, conversion, private nuisance, and trespass. Cavallaro also claims he was “deprived of the opportunity to communicate his artistic message through the Cheese Wall” and “to see the Cheese Wall, at its full length, stand in contrast to the border wall.”

“The loss of Cos’s work has been devastating to him,” Melinda LeMoine of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who is representing Cavallaro, told Hyperallergic.

“For years, he worked to bring his vision of the Cheese Wall to life, only to have trespassers tear it apart and bury it in the dirt. He has never sued anyone before. But he felt that he had no choice here. He cannot recreate what is lost, but he can stand up for what is right,” she added.

Cavallaro standing at the former site of his destroyed “Cheese Wall” near the US-Mexico border. (photo by Alan Shaffer; courtesy of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP)

The artist is seeking damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

When Trump took office, he promised to build a “big, beautiful” wall along the Southwest border to keep out what he falsely described as an influx of Mexican criminals. According to recent analyses, the (now possibly lame-duck) president has built 15 miles of new primary barrier and 350 miles of replacement or secondary barrier; another 221 miles are still under construction. That is a far cry from the 2,000-mile stretch of concrete he had committed to during his 2016 campaign.

In a 2019 interview, Cavallaro said that his installation was meant to “show and expose waste.” The sculpture was supposed to stand at 1,000 feet and was still under construction when it was torn down. By then, it stood at six feet high and contained more than 400 Cotija bricks.

“I don’t like walls,” Cavallaro said. “This is a wall that I can handle, that I’m willing to live with. This wall is perishable, it will not last.”


Shantell Martin Public Art in Queens

Rockaway-Mural-Rockaway-Untapped-New-York-NYC_2Untapped Cities website announces a great piece of public art in Queens, New York:

Awarding-winning artist Shantell Martin has debuted her 16,000-square-foot mural in the “Big Yard” Seaside playground at Waterside Children’s Studio School. Located near the new Rockaway Hotel and used by 700 students and numerous community members, the outdoor recreational space provides the ground for Martin to make her mural visible to passersby on foot, guests atop the neighboring and new Rockaway Hotel rooftop, and New York City travelers arriving by air.

The mural consists of iconic, monochromatic black and white interconnected lines, Martin’s signature style of drawing, that form texts and images to revitalize and beautify the neighborhood and highlight the vibrancy of the Rockaway Community and its urban beach landscape. “Because of the scale, there are multiple ways to experience the piece. What you have on the ground is very different from the experience you have of it from a higher perspective where you get to see how the lines, words, and faces are actually interacting with each other,” Martin said. “It’s all about discovery and letting people interact with it the way they naturally feel inclined to.”

The project is a response to an open call letter from Friends of Seaside Playground, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting wellness through art, sports, and outdoor activities for children in the community, and its partners 7|G Foundation and The Rockaway Hotel. The committee sought proposals for a temporary mural at the “Big Yard.” Martin, who has previously presented her works on large scale screens at World Trade Center and on a former military chapel on Governors Island, was unanimously chosen by the committee. “When curating a public artwork, it is imperative that the work connects to the community that is living with it,” said Michi Jigarjian, Rockaway Hotel’s Social Impact Officer. “For Shantell’s piece in Rockaway, she centers on the empowerment of understanding ‘who you are’ and ‘yes you are you,’ which is a powerful message for a community as diverse and vibrant as Rockaway.”