Someone Used a Chain Saw to Make a Melania Trump Statue. Few Were Impressed.

LONDON — Decades after Melania Trump left the rolling hills of Slovenia and became first lady of the United States, a life-size wooden statue of her has appeared on the banks of a river near her hometown.

Much of the rustic figure, from its shoulders to its fingertips, is painted powder blue, to reflect the cashmere dress and gloves she wore to her husband’s inauguration in 2017.

One arm is raised as if in a wave to Sevnica, her hometown, about five miles upstream. Rising out of a tree trunk laced with ivy, the monument stretches to nine feet tall, towering over visitors.

The statue was commissioned by an American artist, Brad Downey, who said on Saturday that it’s the first monument to Mrs. Trump and a “serious” work of art. But those who saw it when it was inaugurated last Friday gave the work decidedly unkind reviews. “It’s a disgrace,” “It’s a Smurfette” are a few of the comments from residents, according to ITV News.

That’s because the statue bears little resemblance to the first lady. It looks as if someone had taken a chain saw to its face and run the blades over the nose, eyes and mouth to strip them of their finer features.

That, it turns out, is literally true.

The wooden statue was fashioned out of a tree with a chain saw by a local folk artist, Ales Zupevc, known as Max. He was asked by Mr. Downey, who has been based in Berlin for nearly two decades and is known for provocative public works and pranks, to create the statue as part of an exhibition by Mr. Downey in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana.

Some observers have described it as a scarecrow. Many said the statue reminded them of unfortunate tributes to other celebrities like a silver statue of the soccer star David Beckham, wearing nothing but tight underwear, and a crazed-looking bust of the soccer striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Downey said the statue was no prank and it had turned out exactly as he intended. “Max wasn’t making a joke,” he said of Mr. Zupevc. “It’s not a joke for him.”

The whole venture was an artistic investigation of Mrs. Trump through her home region, Mr. Downey said, and he wanted a local person who followed the folk tradition in his or her work and was not an academic artist.

He visited the hospital where Mrs. Trump was born and searched the records for someone who was born there around the same time but whose life had taken a different trajectory, he said. And he found his artist in Mr. Zupevc, a pipe layer who carves in his spare time.

“Since the current political situation popped up, I felt compelled to inject a bit of my voice into this narrative,” Mr. Downey said. “The idea to commission the first monument to Melania has some cheekiness to it, but I wanted to do a serious investigation there.”

“It’s a beautiful story that it’s still physically rooted in the area she is coming from,” Mr. Downey said.

His only aesthetic input into the project was to set the height of the statue and to provide Mr. Zupevc with a full-body portrait of Mrs. Trump. Then Mr. Zupevc revved up his chain saw.

Some social media users said the statue perfectly complemented what they called the wooden public appearances of the first lady. One person asked if the artist was the same person who had disfigured a century-old “ecce homo” fresco of Jesus crowned with thorns in a village in northeastern Spain, turning out what may have been one of the worst art restoration projects of all time.

But the pipe layer turned sculptor, who says he and Mrs. Trump were both born in April, says in a video documentary made while he was working on the statue, “I’m pleased with myself.”

“I’ve never done a statue of a whole human figure. Busts yes. Vultures, et cetera, but never a whole person,” he said. He added, “She might come and see the thing. She might like it.”

Sevnica, in rural Slovenia, has welcomed Mrs. Trump’s rise to global prominence with a multitude of tributes and attractions. Local businesses sell everything from Melania salami to Melania slippers. A book was published to tell the “Slovenian Side” of the first lady’s story, and the local hotel reopened last year to host tourists on themed tours.

Officials there could not be immediately reached for comment on this latest contribution to the local scene.

As for President Trump, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to mark his achievements in another life, as a television impresario. In 2007, he joked that it was his favorite piece of real estate — before vandals took a pickax to smash it into bits in 2018 and scrawled obscenities on it to protest against his policies.

But there is at least one serious tribute to Mr. Trump, a bust in Oklahoma. Less flatteringly, protesters have erected life-size nude statues of him in several cities in the United States and have flown a “Trump Baby” balloon at protests in several countries.

Mr. Downey said the reaction of residents in the first lady’s native country did not all amount to criticism, and that many were, in fact, happy to have the statue. In fact, he said, residents had promised to take care of it for years to come.


more recommended stories

  • E.P.A. Broke Rules in Shake-Up of Science Panels, Federal Watchdog Says

    Want climate news in your inbox?.

  • Joe Biden’s Health Care Plan Focuses on Shoring Up the Affordable Care Act

    After remaining vague for months about.

  • Huge Turnout Is Expected in 2020. So Which Party Would Benefit?

    The opportunity for Democrats, however small,.

  • On Politics: Trump Tells Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to Their Countries

    Good Monday morning. Here are some.

  • The Power Went Out. Where Was de Blasio?

    He was in rural Iowa, illustrating.

  • When Big Tobacco Invoked Eric Garner to Fight a Menthol Cigarette Ban

    In an interview in the sanctuary.

  • Trump Backs Away From Barriers on Foreign Uranium

    WASHINGTON — President Trump said he.

  • Joe Biden Decides He Doesn’t Need to Stay Above the Fray After All

    ATKINSON, N.H. — Joseph R. Biden.

  • Pence Tours Border Facilities – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • Man Attacking ICE Detention Center Is Fatally Shot by the Police

    The police fatally shot a man.

  • Pence Defends Conditions at Migrant Detention Centers in Texas

    Vice President Mike Pence played down.

  • Top Ocasio-Cortez Aide Becomes a Symbol of Democratic Division

    WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders, their.

  • Parties Face ‘Crackup’ as Outsiders Wield Social Media Against the Establishment

    WASHINGTON — On the night that.

  • New Details on Family Separations Fuel Emotional Hearing

    WASHINGTON — At least 18 infants.

  • One Candidate In, One Candidate Out: This Week in the 2020 Race

    Every Saturday morning, we’re publishing “This.

  • A White House Correspondent Departs the Jaw-Dropping Trump Beat

    To judge by Thursday’s events, Mr..

  • House Democrats Postpone Mueller Testimony by One Week

    WASHINGTON — House Democrats said late.

  • E.P.A. Plans to Curtail the Ability of Communities to Oppose Pollution Permits

    “Often the Environmental Appeals Board is.

  • As Tropical Storm Barry Strengthens, FEMA Is Already Stretched Thin

    The increase in disasters has outpaced.

  • 22 States Considered Eliminating the ‘Tampon Tax’ This Year. Here’s What Happened.

    In Maine, the House and Senate.

  • American Commandos Gear Up for New Shadow War With Russia

    SZOLNOK, Hungary — Secretive, behind-the-lines mission.

  • On Politics: Trump Abandons Census Fight

    • Ms. Warren was one of.

  • Democrats Demand Briefing and Documents on Epstein Plea Deal

    WASHINGTON — House Democrats waded further.

  • ‘We Will Leave No Stone Unturned,’ Trump Says in Retreat on Citizenship Issue – Video

    Recent Episodes in Show more videos.

  • Here’s One List Where Kirsten Gillibrand Is Winning and Kamala Harris Is Tied With Marianne Williamson

    Amid the relentless focus on Washington.

  • Trump Turns to Executive Action to Press Citizenship Question on Census

    WASHINGTON — President Trump is planning.

  • Buttigieg, Struggling With Black Voters, Releases Plan to Address Racial Inequities

    WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg, whose presidential.

  • U.S. Prepares to Arrest Thousands of Immigrant Family Members

    Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of.

  • Joan Perry’s Defeat in G.O.P. Primary Points Up Party’s Gender Woes

    WASHINGTON — The results are in.

  • State Dept. Intelligence Analyst Quits to Protest Blocked House Testimony

    Want climate news in your inbox?.

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Sued for Blocking Critics on Twitter

    [What you need to know to.

  • So You Want to Overturn Obamacare. Here Are Some Things That Would Be Headaches.

    Many Medicare experiments Under Obamacare, a.