CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A design for a statue honoring the state’s female veterans was scrapped amid concerns that the figure of a muscular woman in military fatigues and T-shirt was not feminine enough.
State Division of Veteran Affairs Director Larry Linch said Tuesday a review committee polled women veterans and found they opposed the design created by Charleston artist Joe Mullins.
“The statue that Mr. Mullins created is dead,” Linch said.
Mullins, who previously sculpted four statues for a War Memorial at the state Capitol Complex, said he was commissioned to do a work honoring West Virginia’s 7,000 women veterans by a different agency – the state Division of Culture and History.
Mullins said the design was approved by the agency in 1999 and he has already been paid $50,000 for the work. He said the culture and history division required him to provide a sculpture of a woman in military fatigues.
“That was the state of West Virginia’s idea,” he said. “It also needs to be made clear to my future clients that I’m not the bad guy here.”
Culture and history division officials said the agency is no longer involved in the project, except for providing $100,000 to have the finished work installed on the Capitol grounds.
Mullins’ work is not complete and has only been presented to veterans and state officials as a model. But it drew complaints from some female veterans who said the figure lacks femininity, Linch said. Some vets and lawmakers complained the soldier is not depicted wearing a regulation military uniform.
“It’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s just not what West Virginia veterans think of when they think of women in the military,” said Christie Utt, an Air Force veteran who chaired the committee.