A sculpture of a beaver with a giant vagina has has torn the sleepy town of Bemidji, Minnesota asunder, awakening ardent debate about the right to bear labia—and inspiring mischievous, sticky-goo-squirting vandals.
True story: My old roommate is from Bemidji. Before it was famous for a sculpture of a beaver with labia the length of its torso, Bemidji was famous for an 18-foot shrine to Paul Bunyan. Bemidji: Where tacky goes to get supersized.
But back to the beaver with the ginormous beaver. A local art initiative was sort of asking for it when they gave giant beavers to a bunch of local artisans and instructed them to paint them however they wanted, for public display. (The painted animal thing hit most metropolises a decade or so ago, but Bemidji, a town of 13,000, waited politely for its turn.) Local woodsy earth mama Deborah Davis named hers "Gaea" and dedicated it to a "celebration of womanhood," its belly painted with a giant, anatomically accurate image of a splayed vagina covered in, uh, roses? Polka dots? Herpes? (Deborah Davis says her painting isn't of labia, but hands clapsed in prayer.)
Anyway, Gaea's vagina aroused such controversy that the Bemidji City Council had to call a special meeting. Initially censored, Gaea was eventually returned to the wild and now has her own Facebook page, where you can keep up with her daily travails. The latest: Gaea has been defaced with a "tacky" opaque substance that is probably graffiti, unless it was the giant Paul Bunyan statue in the middle of the night. Roadside attractions of the northern coniferous forest have needs, too.