“The case is in Supreme Court,” Janet Lehr, of Vered Gallery, tells me. “We filed the briefs. It would not have reached this point if left up to the community. People love the Legs. And Sag Harbor Village is all about art. We have had 700 pro Legs and two cons. In my opinion, this is about one very powerful person behind this, not the community.”
“Legs,” is late Pop artist Larry Rivers’ beloved piece of art. He had Legs in all their glory outside his Southampton village home for years. They were at the entrance to his home. He was an artist. Legs is art. We are an artistic community. Let us not forget that. The Puritans are dead and witch hangings are over. Or are they? It gives one the chills.
Lehr and her partner, Ruth Vered, of the Vered Gallery in East Hampton, live in Sag Harbor village. They bought Rivers’ Legs and have them outside their home on Madison and Henry Streets. To the delight and curiosity of tourists and locals both. “It is a sculpture,” Lehr says, “It is not a structure. Legs has only the most positive feedback. The Hamptons and Route 27 are dotted with sculptures. No one has a problem with this. They are artistic expression.” One wonders what the big commotion is about Legs.
Lehr tells me what she knows. “The Village operates under its own rules. But how can you apply town code to a sculpture? It is an illogical application that the Village has filed against Legs on our property. The question remains, is it a correct one?” Who, really, is so upset about Legs, in the first place? It is a pair of women’s legs. Not breasts. Not private parts. Why were they okay in Southampton and not Sag Harbor? What is offensive to one person is beautiful to another, true. Are the ostentatious yachts in the nearby harbor too big or too much? Maybe. But the owners are paying dock fees and using fuel and buying food, contributing to the village’s revenue and some people like to look at them. And some people think they are gas guzzling, showy, enormous, dare I say, “structures.”
Now what about two longtime, well-liked members of the community, Lehr and Vered, who pay taxes, live and work here, displaying a sculpture on their own property? Who exactly are they offending? What are Legs obstructing? Nothing. I don’t get it. Please don’t tell me what I can put in my lawn, mister. Is Godzilla offensive? Superwoman? A giant Dora the Explorer for my granddaughter? How about a life-like sculpture of Mitt Romney. Eew, sorry that was going too far!
Lehr has a good idea. “I would like to call for a day of sculpture, for the whole Village,” she says. Why not? Sounds like a great summer event.
The point is, where do we draw the line between freedom of expression and control and the scary banning of art? How do you know when you have crossed the line? What is next, for the art police? Books? Tattoos? Movie posters? Bumper stickers? Your old Rolling Stones jean jacket with the tongue? Be very careful when you let Big Brother tell you how to live. It seeps in, this judgment, this power, this insidious removal of freedom. Who decides? Go see Legs and have a nice day in Sag Harbor. But don’t wear too big a hat or flashy shoes, okay? People might not like it.