At this point, two and a half years into her husband Donald Trump’s presidency, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that what’s reportedly the world’s first-ever monument of Melania Trump is not exactly complimentary. Instead, the statue of “Melania” that was erected over the weekend in her native Slovenia looks like the aftermath of a collision between a tree stump and an unwieldy chainsaw—which, in turns out, is also an accurate description of how it was made.
And yet, somehow, the statue has never been intended as a critique of Melania—all the more surprising given that the American artist who commissioned it, Brad Downey, is known for pulling pranks. In the days since it was unveiled, spectators have likened the newborn “Melania” to everything from a scarecrow to a new iteration of Cecilia Giménez’s failed (and heavily memed) restoration of a Jesus fresco. “I can understand why people might think that this falls short as a description of her physical appearance,” Downey told AFP. In his eyes, however, “Melania” is “absolutely beautiful.”
Downey may have commissioned it, but the statue is actually the handiwork of Ales “Maxi” Zupevc, who toiled away on his likeness of the first lady in a field in Rozno, five miles outside of Melania’s hometown of Sevnica. From the look of a video excerpt that Downey posted on Instagram, Maxi’s process began with affixing a life-size cut-out of the photo of Trump below, waving and wearing pale blue Ralph Lauren on her husband’s inauguration day, to the plinth of a linden tree, that he then hacked to his satisfaction.
And yet, in her wooden iteration, Melania’s wave bears much more resemblance to a cry for help. As the Cut has pointed out, the sculpture calls to mind the same question that Trump once asked herself, of a beluga whale: “What is she thinking?”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Maxi is not a full-time sculptor; he reportedly works primarily as a pipe layer, though also moonlights as an “amateur chainsaw artist.” But what he lacks in mixed media experience, he makes up for with a special bond to his subject. “I don’t know her personally, but she’s my age. We were both born in April. All the more reason to make the statue. Being born the same year, the same month,” Maxi says in a video that Downey produced.
Maxi has allowed that he and the first lady aren’t entirely similar: “Let’s face it, she owns half of America while I have nothing,” he continues. But that hasn’t stopped him from harboring hope that they’ll soon have something else in common: an appreciation for his handiwork. “She might come and see the thing. She might like it.”
If she does, it seems like she’ll be in the minority: The popularity of “Melania,” much like that of real-life Melania, doesn’t seem to extend much outside of her inner circle. In the past few days, however, there has been at least one exception: Slovenia’s wasps appear to have embraced the statue with open arms.