sDfv dfgbzdfb

No Justice, No Piece
Local Artist Makes Waves on Lawrence’s North Canal

by Brett M. Rhyne


The wrecked pieces of Terry Bastian’s sculpture of Justice, The Homeland is Secure, lie asunder across the floor of his Lawrence studio. Her legs bear scars from canal water, her torso, from barbed wire and while she still wears the blindfold and smirk Bastian gave her, her head now rests most unnaturally at an Anne Boleyn-like angle.

“People have to have order in the world," Bastian says calmly, almost shrugging. “I’m more comfortable with disorder."

Recently, during this unbearable summer, unknown assailants dismembered Homeland. The sculpture was one of several political works featured in Artwalk on North Canal, a Bastian-organized public art exhibit in the most industrial part of this city.

Bastian has two explanations for what provoked this violent response to his work. “Near as I can tell, someone was trying to steal it," he says. “Either that, or someone just wanted to beat the snot out of it."

This writer suspects it's the latter. The Homeland is Secure provoked strong emotions. Imagine: Justice stands with sword lowered and scales taken away, her wrists tied with rope. The rust from the barbs in the wire binding her stains her body like blood. Through the martyrdom, she smiles inscrutably. We’re moved to compassion, then to hurt and anger.

The work was unabashedly radical. The Homeland is Secure was a ringing indictment of authoritarian domestic policies pursued by Messrs. Bush and Ashcroft since September 11. The artist exposed the administration’s carpe diem attitude toward the suspension of our civil rights, particularly free speech, assembly, due process and access to information. The artist’s in-your-face placement of the work, opposite the Lawrence courthouse, sharpened the critique.

Homeland evoked a range of responses throughout her life. After Lawrence’s First Night celebration, vandals tossed her into the canal. Bastian chalks that up to drunkenness. During the Essex Art Center’s spring Politically Charged show, abused women advocates raised concerns about aspects of her that suggested violence toward women. Some home schooling parents also questioned the appropriateness of the bare-breasted figure’s placement near the exhibit’s entrance. The work was later moved to a less conspicuous location.

When considering the work’s reception at the Human Rights Show at Heritage State Park in April, the artist characterizes the progressives’ response as, “It may not be pleasant, but it makes people think."

Artwalk on North Canal
sports several political works that also highlight the importance of site specificity in public art. Ian White’s aural sculpture, Standing Wave, is inseparably site- and environment-specific: solar-powered solenoids, mounted onto the braces above a rusty, unused railroad bridge, tap the beams at different speeds and with different strengths, depending on the weather. We’re ensconced in a chittering, mechanical forest, at times soothing and unnerving. By creating no object and thereby requiring us to experience the piece firsthand, the artist admirably strives to create the most public of art, that which cannot be commodified.

With Resurrection, Jack Welch takes a commonly found canal object, an abandoned shopping cart, trebles its size and floats it on the water. The work’s simplicity and whimsicality are deceptive; this is a wry commentary on our wasteful dispose-all culture, which indiscriminately discards inanimate objects, nature and human life alike.

Sara JH Ashodian’s Evolution is two clusters of glow-in-the-dark spirals that seem to have just burst onto the canal’s surface from below. Ashodian, a model artist-activist in both her art and her practice, raises environmental issues with Evolution: we get the unsettling feeling that something bizarre and threatening, fed by decades of industrial byproducts, is growing in the murky water.

Bastian remains undecided about whether to recreate Homeland for Artwalk on North Canal’s closing reception. He acknowledges the artistic process doesn’t end with the artist and accepts people’s destructive responses to site-specific public art as being part of the piece.

“I look at the canal as a collaborative installation," he says. “I just happen to be collaborating with vandals and psychotics."

A closing reception for Artwalk on North Canal will be held around the Essex Art Center, 56 Island St., Lawrence, on Friday, September 13. Terry Bastian can be reached at 978.557.0137.


242 E. Berkeley Street • 5th Fl. • Boston, Massachusetts • 02118 • Phone 617.426.8942 • Fax 617.426.8944 • Report errors to the webmaster
Send mail regarding Listings to

©2002 Weekly Dig LLC