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Writer Upset Over Statuette Received at State Arts Awards : Conflict: Author Alice Walker says the sculpture of a nude woman's torso sends a message of 'domination, violence and destruction.' She had just finished a project about female mutilation.

April 17, 1994| From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker was horrified when she received an award statuette for being a California "state treasure."

The statuette, almost a foot tall, is a sculpture of a nude woman's torso--sans arms, legs and a head.

Walker's latest work is a film and companion book about female genital mutilation entitled "Warrior Marks."

"Imagine my horror when, after four years of thinking about the mutilation of women, I was presented with a decapitated, armless, legless woman, on which my name hung from a chain," Walker told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Walker was recognized last month as a "state treasure" at the fifth annual Governor's Arts Awards in Los Angeles. Fellow recipients included director Steven Spielberg, artist David Hockney and actor Hal Holbrook.

Walker had initially refused to accept the state's highest literary award because educators had pulled two of her short stories from a state achievement test for public school students. Religious conservatives found the stories offensive.

But the state reversed its decision to remove the stories after public outcry, and Walker decided to accept the award on behalf of those who fought to keep her work on the test.

The statue was designed by California artist Robert Graham. A spokesman for Graham said the statue is fine art that will increase in value.

"In addition to its social value, the torso is a museum-quality work of art," said publicist Dale Olson. "Anybody who is an art lover would be happy to have the piece displayed in their home."

Walker disagreed.

"Though these mutilated figures are prized by museums and considered 'art' by some, the message they deliver is of domination, violence and destruction," she said.

Walker said she is going to keep the gilded statuette packed in a box.

"I would have cherished much more something whole, natural, non-threatening," she said. "A feather found in the forest, a seashell or a stone."

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