Plea to Sarasota Veterans

I'm a veteran. Retired combat 100% disabled. I hate that statue with all of my being. Of course, as someone that was raped in the military, sexually harassed for 16 months by a superior and then attacked by him, I have plenty of reason to hate it.

A lot of people have no idea that that sailor had never met that woman before and kissed her without warning. Her body language reveals her unwillingness to be kissed by a perfect stranger. The statue is vile and to me and others like me, signifies how men view women … as objects, not a celebration of anything. Absolutely HATE IT. You should get the opinions of female veterans.

Female veteran from Sarasota

Looking for a Few Good Men (& WOmen!)

To step up and do the right thing

This petition is public plea to the esteemed veterans of the Unconditional Surrender Veterans’ Group (American Legion Post 266, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3233, and American Legion Post 159) to “do the right thing” as the members of The Greatest Generation they intended to honor were justly famed for doing, and either support signage explaining the fuller history of the moment immortalized by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s lens, or request that the City of Sarasota return the statue they fought so hard for to Seward Johnson’s estate for permanent display at the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey.

While the statue represented love and fellowship to Jack Curran and his loyal comrades who lobbied for it, history has now shown that the incident it depicts is not what people thought it was. Valorizing a stolen statue which romanticizes and paints as heroic a drunken act of forced intimacy is inappropriate in 2022, and trying to cover-up the inconvenient, but now widely-known truth of the moment, is untenable in the long-run, and dishonorable in the present.

It is time to lay down the arms that have held this city, and the future, and the “vise grip” of a well-intended mistaken memorial to a misunderstood moment from the past. Although those who do not know the backstory of the incident in Times Square have taken joy and solace in recreating what the world now knows was a forced kiss, people born in this century cannot see the false memories and misplaced sentiments erroneously written into the indelible image captured by uncredited artist Alfred Eisenstaedt’s lens.

Living in the giant shadow cast by Seward Johnson’s romanticized, colorized and inflated swiped imagery has caused pain to a generation of women, children, authors, and artists.  The statue plagiarizes an artist, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Johnson contractually prohibited the city from giving him any credit for the work.  Also, based upon what we know now to be true about the nature of the act Eisensteadt photographed, the statue’s festive treatment of forced intimacy poorly represents the considerable sacrifice of our service members, and sets a totally inappropriate exemplar of love and valor for the future.

The disturbing diorama this oft-Instagramed-object creates was traumatic enough to one raped child living in the area that she confessed her assault for the first time, and a man is now in jail as a result.  But every time this issue is ignored or dismissed, Kelly Franklin, the civic activist who knows that child, must explain that it is not the child who is crazy for seeing the unwanted domination in the off-balance stance and and headlock of the female figure in the statue, but rather that we are living in a mad world at the moment.

Veterans alone have the power to end this madness. The quote under the Hemingway book cover is what one brave local veteran—a woman— wrote to Congressman Vern Buchanan when the fate of the statue was discussed, under the fire of a fraught election season, in 2020.

A big man owns up to his mistakes, as George Mendsona did, and learns from them. The veteran who purchased the statue, Jack Curran, was, based upon the accounts of all who knew him, a good man, and his gesture was meant to honor love and the sacrifices of The Greatest Generation. Unfortunately, we’ve learned some uncomfortable truths about the moment of depicted as romantic mutual celebration in Seward Johnson’s stolen art.

This is NOT about castigating George Mendonsa, or the men of his generation. Indeed, it was the Greta figure’s leg which was briefly labelled as being part of a moment of non-consensual sexual contact. Although the “whodoneit” element of that artistic mystery remains, to those of us who share visceral understanding of the body language writ large in the pose, the hashtag added by the anonymous Sarasotan was powerful precisely because it made clear that it is the women and children subject to forced intimacy who carry the shame and the scars of these sort of encounters—then and now.

In the haunting Eisenstaedt photo, George’s actions can be understood in context. That is not true of the gargantuan, inherently deceptive, Kodachrome portrayal of the moment in Seward Johnson’s pirated statue.

It is clear that after countless fruitless attempts to break through the simplistic and misused “cancel culture” invective, that only the brave warriors who brought this misunderstood monument to these shores have the power address its unintended consequences or to request its return. Please, in the name of honor, and the principles enshrined in the Constitution you vowed to uphold, man up, step up, and act with dignity and valor by admitting, and taking responsibility for correcting, the super-sized case of mistaken identity that is Unconditional Surrender.

36 Responses

  1. Living in a town well known for its local art and resident artists, it’s disappointing that Sarasota would give this copy-of-a-copy of plagiarized aluminum & styrofoam by an out-of-state artist a home, when we have so much amazing local art to promote. The scene the statue depicts has nothing to do with America proudly winning a war or memorializing the brave soldiers who served. Rather it depicts a self-admitted drunk-in-uniform assaulting a war refugee by surprise and with his own girlfriend watching! The only thing it glorifies is sexual assault, and it’s nothing of which to be proud.

  2. The largest “art” piece in a town that markets itself as a loving art, aid it a surprise that Ringling College graduates run away as fast as they can from SRQ? After all, a foul imitation of an image captured by someone else with a cartoon like aspect that belies its root of sexual assault, dominates the bay front. It’s an eyesore. It needs to go away.

  3. “Sarasota…the #1 place in the nation to retire!” according to US News & World Reports. Having come so far from its humble beginnings, you would think this city would proudly reflect its identity as a “city of the arts” by crafting its own symbols.

    It’s time to cast aside our borrowed icons. The Michelangelo “David” on our City seal and the cartoon-ized “Unconditional Surrender” in Bayfront Park don’t represent what Sarasota has to offer. Do we really need to steal the works of others to stand as our symbols? And certainly, we don’t need a symbol that celebrates the act of stealing. Stolen, in that a huge, 3-D reproduction of a photograph was made without the photographer/artist’s permission, and stolen, in that it glorifies stealing the dignity and will of a woman. There are better ways to honor our military and celebrate our city than this.

    As much as I understand that many people see only the joy and relief of the end of the war when they see that statue, we know better, and should move on. Claim greatness by finding appropriate and meaningful representations of our history and our hopes for the future. I, for one, would welcome the iconic Lido seahorses as a great place to start.

  4. As with other statues in other places, this statue can be seen as an index, or x-ray, of the city where it stands. Public art is always something of an oxymoron. But a city that prides itself on tacky gigantism, with this image, is simply a moron.

  5. Totally agree that MIlitary Sexual Assault shouldn’t be celebrated or glorified in public displays. It has been adequately explained that the victim did not know the person committing the assault and did not participate or condone the actions of a drunk celebrant. Please remove it permanently from public sight. As a female veteran I find it repulsive 🤢

  6. Thousands of Americans fought and died in WWII to stop tyrants from destroying humanity. If Sarasota wants to recognize these sacrifices, it should do so with a memorial that dignifies these heroes and heroines. Instead, years ago local officials fell for a ruse—a 3-D cartoon pretending to an artistic tribute to a moment in history.

    Seward Johnson has used an incident in Manhattan on VJ Day 1945 to attract attention to himself and nothing more. Did he get permission from the Eisenstaedt family to create a computer-generated series of fiberglass sculptures depicting Eisenstadt’s photo? No. Did Johnson get permission from the nurse who was grabbed by a stranger for a famous “kiss”? No.

    Two options have been proposed for this “statue”: place a disclaimer beside it that provides appropriate historical context, or send it back to Seward Johnson’s estate. Sarasota should return it with postage due.

  7. I understand the emotion in surrounding the photo of the sailor and nurse entirely. I understand that he was so overwhelmed with happiness, love and joy he just had to physically express it to the closest person. But this is not an excuse to grab a woman you do not know and force your kiss upon her. This was not an unconditional surrender because a woman left under the condition that she would possibly leave that day feeling completely violated.

  8. Unconditional Surrender Is Unacceptable Symbol of Sarasota

    The photograph that brilliantly captured, and spoke volumes about, the euphoria of V-J Day, August 14, 1945, is the basis for the statue that stands at the bay front of Sarasota. Humbly titled, V-J Day in Times Square, the photograph expressed everything its title did not: an exquisite moment of euphoria on a day when gratitude, relief, and jubilance lifted our nation as one.

    Seventy-five years later, Sarasota’s 25-foot-high, not quite so humbly titled Unconditional Surrender statue replicates that moment in history, and also speaks volumes. But what is it saying?

    For the clearest answer — directly from the mouth of its creator — we need look no further than the statue’s title. Dramatically named for maximum effect by sculptor Seward Johnson, the title, Unconditional Surrender, overtly refers to the phrase made famous by the 1945 Potsdam Declaration warning Japan of prompt and utter destruction if the Allied forces’ demand for unconditional surrender wasn’t met.

    Since the statue isn’t a sculpture of an atom bomb mushroom cloud, since it’s not an image of warfare at all, and since it is a statue of a man crooking his elbow tightly around the neck of a woman who appears to have gone limp as he bends her backward to plant his lips on hers, we can logically infer that Mr. Seward was referring, with a wink and a nod, to an unconditional surrender of another kind altogether.

    Think about those words: surrender—meaning submission or ceasing resistance, and unconditional— meaning the surrendering party has no say in the conditions they are experiencing. Seward knew precisely what he was doing — what thoughts he would be inculcating — in the minds of people every time they read or hear the title “Unconditional Surrender.”

    We already know what at least one person thinks of the sexual politics of the statue: it garnered national notoriety in 2019 after someone spray painted the hashtag #MeToo in bold red letters on the nurse’s leg. But have we ever wondered what our Japanese tourists or residents think of the meaning and historical relevance of its title? Is Unconditional Surrender really how we want to welcome visitors to the “cultural coast” of Florida?

    Whether Seward named his work to refer proudly to the annihilation of men, women, and children in Nagasaki and Hiroshima or salaciously to the subjugation of women — is this really the symbol we want representing who we are as a community?

    The U.S. at first resisted getting involved in World War II, but we ultimately changed our minds and by doing so, Americans helped save the world. Millions of lives were saved when the U.S. entered the war.

    Let that love of humanity—acted out by the Greatest Generation—draw a new breath. A breath that hearkens back to the qualities of bravery and boldness so profoundly modeled by the men and women of that generation — qualities that, as a nation, we need now more than ever.

    When you know better, Maya Angelou famously said, you do better. I believe we can do better as a community than having a statue, the very name of which proclaims the quite brutal concept of unconditional surrender. Words and symbols have enormous power, both overtly and covertly. Instead of branding our community as one that crows about unconditional surrender, let’s brand it with something that celebrates unconditional respect.

    The time for Unconditional Surrender has passed.

    *This writing originally appeared in the op-ed section of the Sarasota Herald Tribute in 2020.

  9. Unconditional Surrender needs to be in a misogyny museum. It requires study and reflection not glorification. Our tendency is to romanticize earlier times when these without consent sexualized relationships were not challenged.

    We now have a new lens from which to view these things. Many don’t want to see through this different lens. But it is imperative we take a new look now that we know more. We want women and men, young and old, to clearly understand the concept of consent and be able to identify when boundaries are being crossed.

  10. When I see the Unconditional Surrender statue erected in Sarasota, the emotional horror that comes to mind is the known and unknown victims of sexual assault by privileged depraved men in the military, one sitting on the Supreme Court and, of course, the former president, Donald J. Trump who was caught on a “hot” mic, saying, “Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” “…grab them by the …”

    Sarasota City Commissioners show more decency towards women and the citizens of this fine city by removing this monstrosity and ship it off to New Jersey.

  11. As a thirty-something communications professor who has visited your beautiful city by the bay, I wanted to take a moment to comment on the mixed messages built into the Unconditional Surrender statue. To people my age and younger, the statue is confusing, and seems out of place.  For those who know about the #MeToo tagging and the greater awareness it brought to what was happening in the photo, it is bizarre to see consenting adults recreate that non-consensual act.

    For a city that is generally known for its culture, and for being progressive and welcoming, this statue sends exactly the opposite signals.  I think you owe it to both history and the future to at least accurately describe for your visitors the story behind the imagery they imitate.

  12. It is unfortunate that Sarasota has chosen this statue to represent it’s city. There are dozens of choices among are which are representations of Ringling Brothers which has a rich history in the city. This statue is a poor choice knowing we know today about the unwanted advances that women have to endure.

  13. This statue offends many people and gives Sarasota unwanted negative attention. It’s time to remove it from city grounds.

  14. Please remove this statue that does not in any way represent the “Greatest Generation”. It is actually a complete insult to woman and to men if you look closely at it especially when you know the true history of what happened on that day.

    From the moment I saw it I felt embarrassed and repulsed that it is such a looming figure over Sarasota. This doesn’t represent who people are in 2022. We need to return this statue and stop being entrenched in an illusion that woman ever actually liked for men to grab them and force themselves on them.

    To have this statue be what people remember about Sarasota is not clear thinking about the impact it actually has on the people who emulate it and the children that observe it. This is no way represents honor, respect or love. Please Sarasota, we can do better then this.

  15. Every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted; in 2020 approximately 433,648 Americans 12 years old or older were sexually assaulted or raped. It is important to note that survivors of sexual traumatic events often experience chronic trauma reactions for years after a trauma incident or even for the duration of his or her lifetime.

    Certain environmental stimuli or triggers including sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch can often elicit sudden flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, and emotional re-experiencing among those who have known trauma histories. Therefore, it is important to reconsider the placement of statues that could emotionally trigger trauma survivors.

  16. Kelly Franklin pays a lot of respect to veterans, believing they will consider the truth and decide to do the right thing. Is she naive to think so? I hope not. But I fear she may be asking for rational and honorable behavior from those who will say anything to deny the truth and reality right before their eyes. I have seen this with people who watch videos of the viscous beating of police officers at the Capitol on 1/6/21 and say there was no violence or law-breaking. How can a person watch a video of a man beating a police officer, and deny that it happened?

    It’s almost unbelievable, but such is the human ability to spurn reality, as if they are the God in charge of everything, even the truth. In alcohol and substance-abuse treatment, we say addiction is a disease of denial. But the disease of denial is not limited to substance abusers. It is the first line of defense when it is pointed out that a person is wrong. Rather than admit the truth, they argue. It takes maturity, humility and submission to the truth to admit when you were wrong. Kelly believes our veterans have those qualities. I hope she is right.

    Aside from the ugly truth that the statue glorifies sexual predation, it is an affront to the senses and image of superior artistic culture that Sarasota tries to project. Have you toured cities that line the streets with beautiful statuary portraying the greatness of humanity in marble and bronze? Can you imagine touring in that city and suddenly coming upon a cartoonish plastic model painted in garish colors? Such a city would lose all of its valor and credibility as a center of high culture. Sarasota has become a joke, and a sick one at that.

  17. Since it first arrived on these shores, this statue has over-shadowed all public art in a community that prides itself on being the cultural center of Florida. Instead, Unconditional Surrender has branded Sarasota with a lowest common denominator. Other than the worldwide headlines following the 2019 tagging episode, the only acclaim this object has brought to the city is its inclusion on the website Roadside America. This is hardly the kind of world-class achievement in public art which Sarasota politicians have sought for this sunny, sophisticated, southern city.

  18. It’s not art. It’s kitsch. It’s also very offensive to many who find this to be an act of violence and not a celebration. As MLK said, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.”

  19. It is time for that statue to be moved out of its landmark Sarasota location. To many people it represents, and celebrates, a sexual assault, and that makes it an unacceptable choice as an iconic piece of public artwork.

  20. In thinking about this controversy, I wonder what would happen if those who intensely argue that the statue signifies the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans and their families were given the opportunity to design a fitting tribute. Would it really look like this? Is this the image they would choose to represent and honor the valor, sacrifice, and dignity of those women and men? I doubt it. I am sure they would opt for something more fitting, more noble, and more dignified.

    But, they hitched their wagon to that horse, and the City Commissioners provided statue a prominent place on the Bay Front.

    Now, Sarasotans offended by the indecency and violence portrayed (and I am among them), insist on historical accuracy. The entire story—the rest of the story—should told, not the limited version currently displayed on a plaque near the statue. And, since the piece is treated like other historical markers in the City, then the public should have an accurate and complete story. How can that be controversial?

    By the way, one commissioner’s suggestion that an additional marker would amount to an “interpretation” of art is out-and-out nonsense. What is proposed would no more interpret the statue than the language on the current plaque.

  21. Unconditional Surrender is a giant piece of computer-manufactured kitsch that is a blatant copyright infringement of the well-loved, authentic, work of Alfred Eisenstaedt. He is a nationally-recognized photographer who captured a moment in time that turned out to be completely different from what one is led to believe about this statue.

    Thought for years to represent a joyful embrace that embodied a celebration of the end of a dreadful war, the photograph turns out to have captured a non-consensual and frightening encounter forced upon a woman by a stranger even though it took place in the relative safety of a crowded street. In the original size for publication of the photograph, it was easy to miss the signs of the true nature of the encounter.

    Kitsch always is designed to appeal to popular sentiment. Flowers introduced in the statue heighten that, but in an attempt to retain association with the original work copied, enough of the body language of the off-balanced woman restrained in a headlock and attempting to fend off the inebriated stranger was retained. In three-dimensions and at the height of a house, that perception becomes much more obvious to those familiar with domestic or intimate violence.

    Blown up into a twenty-five-feet-tall unauthorized copy that distorts the image in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the copyright infringement, a misleading element, a bouquet of roses, was introduced in the statue that makes the encounter appear highly romantic. The manufacturer satisfied his personal whims with a dash of sensationalism by providing a provocative peek up the skirt.

    The statue has become a roadside attraction for sentimental visitors who cannot quite understand why they fail to accurately reenact that body language (because it is based in violence). The statue is despised and shunned by those who intuit that message.

    If this statue is going to be kept on display by Sarasota, a city proud to claim itself as the fine arts capital of the state with a thoughtful population, it certainly calls for a great deal of explanation about ethics, creative copyrights, personal rights, acceptable social behavior, and historical truths—much less why this cannot qualify as the fine art the city purports to make available to the public.

    A sign could be a minimum attempt to encourage investigation into and education about the numerous issues borne by this misunderstood statue. Perhaps this site itself might be incorporated via QR on the signage to serve as an educational tool and facilitate that exploration.

  22. First, let’s dispel with the notion that this piece is not “art”. Notwithstanding the position of our dedicated and educated Public Art Committee, this represents hyperrealism art. Akin to the internationally admired artist Dwane Hanson, and local artist Jack Dowd, this is an enlarged example their art.

    Philadelphia displays, in the city’s most prominent location, a 20′ clothespin by Claus Olderman, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, at its prominent entry has a statue of an actor Stallone as the boxer “Rocky”. These are hyperrealistic art examples.

    Locally, in Sarasota we have two life size sculptures by Glenna Goodacre (one in front of the library and the other at the Van Wezel), as well as an “egg” adorning a Main Street building. So why is this piece not in keeping with art already amply displayed in Sarasota?

    The artist has brilliant work displayed in his Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton New Jersey, well worth a visit if in the area.

    I concur and appreciate the angst that exudes when the “me too” glasses are applied. It represents a totally inappropriate infringement of unwanted actions upon a helpless woman.

    Therefore, I strongly agree with appropriate signage explaining the uncontrollable irrational exuberance of the moment, when victory was surprisingly and suddenly announced, and World War II came to an abrupt end.

    The spontaneous eruption of celebrations in all our cities were understandably beyond comprehension, and norms were inexcusably crossed.

    This particular image is tattooed on the memory of those old enough to experience that day. So, to honor those who served and saved the world, when and wherever it is displayed, those who visit the piece should be rewarded with the full explanation and profound significance of the image to that generation.

    The reason given by the sailor, who felt compelled to leave the side of his future wife and kiss the woman in white, was an uncontrollable expression of appreciation and admiration of the efforts by the nursing staff in saving so many of the injured. This meaningful knowledge will assist the viewer’s appreciation of the moment.

    This represents a moment of time when patriotism trumped better judgement, and was not intended to be an inappropriate sexual advance. I trust contemporary society will accept this explanation and appreciate the significance of the image to so many, who cherish that great day.

  23. This is the story of the pieces of the saga of the the Kissing Sailor statue, finally all fitting together. It tells the important narrative of the changing of the nature of relationships between men and women. It is the story “writ large” in the MeToo movement today, acted out in exquisite horror in the microcosm of Sarasota, Florida. It is the story that needs to be read and understood by all men and women. Kelly Franklin has done an excellent job of making sure that the story will be told for the ages.

  24. I agree – maybe in a museum but not out in public. The girl’s posture shows something is wrong and he should stop and he doesn’t look like he’s stopping. Not a good example for young men or young ladies!

  25. Over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed watching tourists and locals surround Unconditional Surrender—some mimicking the position, some kids looking up the skirt, and some observing the tableau in quiet contemplation. Since I see in the statue the feelings I associated with the Life Magazine photo, I never realized that others of different generations or with different life experiences might look upon it differently until “Me Too” was painted in red on the leg of the female. I strongly encourage the placement of a plaque telling the real story of a wonderful day in our history but also recognizing how upsetting the non-consent depiction is for some victims of assault. Otherwise, we might keep conveying to a younger generation mixed messages about acceptable behavior.

  26. As the spouse of the person who wrote this site, I want to say “thank you” to Kelly Franklin for all the work and research that it took to pull together this fuller history about Sarasota’s “controversial” statue, appropriated from Alfred Eisenstaedt’s long misinterpreted powerful and beautiful war picture. Reading the context of “the kiss” and the history of the statue on our shores has given me new appreciation of the piece—not for artistic reasons, but because I now better understand the complexities of life and how the coloration of time can turn a drunken moment of indulgence into a misunderstood monument. To me, the statue is now a reminder to have a thoughtful, inquisitive outlook on life, and willingness to accept that humans are, invariably, both good and bad and the sum of our experiences and the era in which we live. While a sign by the statue is the very least that should be done to help educate others, I still believe the bayfront should have original art which reflects Sarasota’s rich history and contemporary cultural values.

  27. I can unequivocally state that I abhor the Unconditional Surrender statue. It makes me sick and angry when I see it. Not only is it ugly, but it represents an assault. The time of saying, “It was a different time back then!” is over. It WAS a different time. A time when men expected to get away with things they never should…like bending a complete stranger over and kissing her. A time when women were treated as inferior. In OUR time, this is assault and it is unacceptable. Do not glorify it. GET RID OF IT.

  28. The so-called statue is unconditionally hideous both in what it really represents and in it’s cartoonish appearance. I actually feel physically repelled when I drive by the thing. I hope it’s returned to the maker. Sarasota should display true art instead of such misguided, misappropriated, misogynistic mockery of art.

  29. I do not oppose the statue’s placement in the park in that it represents for so many the end of a horrific chapter in our history and the joyous celebration of the day the war ended. However, I also support the placement of signage that explains the actual history of the photograph which inspired the statue. Those who fought and gave their lives in WWII did so to protect those who could not protect themselves. The explanatory sign would continue that legacy in recognizing the need to protect present day assault victims and in recognizing their pain.

  30. It seems our national conversation on statues, meaning and messages conveyed to the public and, most importantly, to our children, has never been so intense and thoughtful. At a point in our history when a collective national empathy coalesces, understanding and supporting the removal of decontextualized Confederate soldier statues from public lands as well as affirming a woman’s right to consent, it should be an easy call to make on removing this cheap, unoriginal, pirated, made-in-China piece of kitsch from our shores. If the hue and cry is to honor the service and sacrifice of our greatest generation, I am positive that we have the artistic creativity, originality and philanthropic support in Sarasota to do as much and restore our national reputation as a unique community that celebrates and supports local art and culture. It is the right thing to do, and probably the best way we could honor our greatest generation.

  31. For an art advisory committee, I feel there exists all the right reasons for returning this sculpture. Reasons already mentioned by many. Most importantly the original public art committee when they rejected the sculpture based on the cities criteria for acceptable public art. City commissioners chose to proceed with a 10 year loan agreements in part to gauge the public’s reaction to the work (Ref. 3:09:00 City Commission Meeting minutes, June 1, 2020).

    Those 10 years have been formative in this case. We have seen the collective consciousness shift. Taboo and unconscious rules have changed. What a minority of us knew to be true 10 years ago is now a truth that is more widely accepted and there is a need to illuminate and amend. The fact that this sculpture immortalizes an assault is now a given. This realization will only grow in time.

    To recognize mistakes takes strength. For a municipality perhaps it takes something more than that. We need to accept that not all works of art are masterpieces. Most do not stand the test of time. Just because a work is made, commissioned, bought or installed doesn’t mean that it automatically enters the realm of cultural heritage that needs protection. We can, now more than before, look at this work and say it does not represent the best of us. Nor does it, in any way, adequately commemorate all the diverse men and women who sacrificed for this country in WWII or any other war.

    I have no desire to take anything away from our veterans. It is clear that Unconditional Surrender means a lot to our WWII vets as well as other vets and their families. But perhaps it is supported out of a lack of choice. This work filled a vacuum in the city, a work of art for veterans. What needs to be considered is that it doesn’t have to be this work. I believe we can do better than this sculpture to commemorate our veterans sacrifice.

    This sculpture is a deception. There is no honor in it. The original photograph has its place in art history and it can be taught in context. The sculpture has become an example of how easily a split second of time can be misunderstood, misconstrued, and misused.

    The image can be taken at face value or an effort can be made to look beyond the surface and understand how it contributes to rape culture. Survivors of sexual assault bear some similarities to survivors of war. They have experienced trauma and they still carry their wounds. We need to take that seriously.

    I truly believe that Unconditional Surrender is not a work of art that honestly represents the best of this country. It does not honor our soldiers and it can even be thought of as the antithesis of our veterans sacrifice. I suggest that we find a sculpture which truly commemorates that sacrifice. Instead of allowing for a sculpture showing a deception to be the legacy of veterans in Sarasota.

  32. The web designer, publisher, armchair local historian, civic art avenger, and child welfare advocate who built this site, Kelly Franklin, proudly signs this plea on behalf of her grandfather, WW-II veteran Captain Lawrence Stone Franklin. I earnestly hope those who mistakenly thought they were honoring service and sacrifice and love of God, country, one another, and human rights by bringing Seward Johnson’s stolen art, Unconditional Surrender to these shores, find the spirit and courage to do the right thing now that we know what the statue actually shows (a misleading romanticized heroic depiction of a beautifully photographed non-consensual moment from history), and request the city return the statue to the estate of the man who had it fabricated. It’s the right thing to do, and the right way to honor the men and women of “The Greatest Generation.”

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