While controversial monuments celebrating the Confederacy have been a recent hot-button issue, some monuments are despised for purely aesthetic reasons. Following is a list of the ugliest monuments and statues in America. Our list features a couple of Confederate monuments as well as statues honoring or depicting aliens, terrifying horses, crop-ruining pests, giant eyeballs, and a few other subjects that will definitely raise your eyebrows.
We must note that most monuments have been created by artists who clearly found historic and aesthetic value in the resulting product. Some people may enjoy and feel edified by visiting these monuments or viewing them online. Some of these monuments may be more accurately described as intense or thought-provoking than downright ugly. You take a look and decide. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
With that being said, let’s get started. Here is a look at 14 monuments which have received criticism. We’ll also feature what detractors had to say about each statue, memorial, and enduring structure on the list.
Next: “Ugliest statue” isn’t coming down soon.
1. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument
This Tennessee town’s absurd and tacky monument to General Nathan Bedford Forrest was built in the late 1990s https://t.co/sgjNPga8pJ
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) September 16, 2017
- Location: Franklin, Tenn.
- Year dedicated: 1905
In its article “America’s Ugliest Statue Isn’t Coming Down Anytime Soon,” New York Magazine referred to this monument as “absurd,” “tacky,” and “our nation’s ugliest Confederate statue.” The statue is located just off I-65, south of Nashville, near the Nissan North America headquarters. It can be seen minimally from the highway.
The 27-foot statue features Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, depicted in silver, astride his horse, depicted in gold. Forrest, to whom multiple monuments exist throughout the South – 31 in Tennessee alone – was known for being a Memphis slave trader. With all the tributes, he was clearly a Confederate icon. His statues are landmarks visited by tourists but which obviously represent quite an unsavory history.
The statue, made of polystyrene blocks and created by longtime Nashville resident Jack Kershaw in 1998, seems to have somewhat of a dramatic history. The sculpture displays evidence of attempts of defacement which have taken place over the years. There have been multiple calls to have a wall built to block the statue’s view from highway passersby. Yet, at least for now, it sits in plain view.
Next: Monument honors agricultural pest.
2. Boll Weevil Monument
The amount of conversations I've started in college with "Have you heard of the Boll Weevil Monument?" might not be socially acceptable
— Catalina Guzman (@TheCatalinaG) October 25, 2017
- Location: Enterprise, Ala.
- Year dedicated: 1919
What is likely the only monument built to honor an agricultural pest is called the Boll Weevil Monument and is located in downtown Enterprise, Ala. Built in 1919 by the citizens of the town, the statue sets forth to mark the profound influence of the insect on the area’s agriculture and economy.
The 13-foot-tall structure consists of a woman holding a pedestal with a boll weevil perched on top. The statue of the woman was built in Italy, with the boll weevil added 30 years later. As of 1998, a polymer-resin replica actually stands in the original statue’s place to prevent vandalism. This replacement was made after the boll weevil, and sometimes the entire monument, was stolen multiple times over the years. The original statue is now on display inside the town’s museum, under camera surveillance for extra protection.
Why is the boll weevil, a known pest, so revered? In 1918, farmers were losing entire cotton crops due to the beetle. As a result of this turmoil, some farmers decided to forego cotton farming for peanut farming. As peanut farming became quite lucrative, farmers often did continue to farm cotton as well, and in doing so, diversified their crops, which helped bring wealth to the county. Thus, the philosophy behind the statue is it celebrates how something disastrous can become a catalyst for change.
Oddee listed the Boll Weevil Monument among its “12 of the World’s Ugliest Statues,” and considers it among “things we can probably all agree do not merit permanent display in public space.”
Next: This monument is called a “poop statue.”
3. Plumed Serpent
Wait, San Jose has a literal PILE OF POO statue, barely disguised as Quetzalcoatl?
— Jeremy Kahn (@trochee) June 9, 2016
- Location: San Jose, California
- Year installed: 1994
This statue has, maybe accurately, been described as a “poop statue.” Have a look at the photo, and decide for yourself. The official depiction is that of the Aztec serpent god Quetzalcoatl. The eight-foot-tall concrete snake was sculpted by Robert Graham. It was installed at the south end of Plaza de Cesar Chavez in 1994.
Graham had said he originally envisioned the creature to have wings, but that a trip to Mexico had convinced him otherwise. It also was originally envisioned as being taller and featuring a space to allow people to stand inside the structure. That was nixed after police brought up security concerns.
The monument has had its detractors. Opponents of the statue filed a lawsuit that it was an illegal promotion of religion in a public space, since the snake represents an Aztec god. In 1996, a federal court rejected the claim.
Next: A Columbus statue fell victim to vandals.
4. Christopher Columbus statue
- Location: Seattle
- Year installed: 1978
Technically, this Christopher Columbus statue does not qualify for our list, as it has already been put into storage. But we figured it was worth a mention due to its interesting and off-the-wall features. Have a close look for yourself.
The hat-wearing creature appears to have animal-like and asymmetrical features, as it stares endlessly, open-mouthed, skyward. The depiction of the statue on Roadside America reads, “There are several theories as to what sculptor Douglas Bennett was trying to accomplish with his bug-eyed Christopher Columbus statue, but almost everyone agrees that it didn’t work.”
The website reports that the statue has been in storage since 2013. Prior to that, there were reports of it being vandalized over several years around Columbus Day.
When the statue was on display, it sat along the Seattle waterfront at Alaskan Way and Union Street near the Seattle Aquarium. It had been there since 1978 with the sponsorship of the city’s small Italian community.
Next: Was Queen Charlotte hit by a bowling ball?
5. Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz statue
- Location: Charlotte, NC
- Year installed: 1990
Situated at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, this sculpture of Charlotte, who became queen of England at 17, honors the town’s namesake. The queen, who was born and raised in Germany, was credited with introducing the Christmas tree into English culture. In 1763, English settlers in the area of present-day North Carolina named their newly formed country seat Charlotte.
Created by artist Raymond Kaskey, the sculpture stands 15 feet high and is crafted in bronze. Over the years, many have questioned why on earth the statue is shaped in such a curious fashion. Some say she is bent like a willow branch, held aloft by the wind. The artist simply said she is “leaning backward in the wind because it seemed appropriate for an airport … and the column sets her as a stationary weather vane … the crown in her hand is counterbalanced with the backwards motion as a welcome sign to the pedestrian.”
To us, it looks a little like she’s being hit in the stomach by an invisible bowling ball. What gives it a creepy feel is she is obviously being pushed backwards by some unknown force with her long fingers spread out and full skirts flowing in the invisible wind – all the while, arm raised and maintaining a grip on her crown.
Next: Terrifying horse sculpture kills artist
— Laughing Squid (@LaughingSquid) May 15, 2017
- Location: Denver
- Year installed: 2008
Picture a giant blue horse with glowing eyes, nostrils flaring, and teeth bared, standing aggressively on its hind legs. Black veins protrude on the underbelly. Pretty terrifying, eh? Sound like something out of a horror movie? Well, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s a monument. The 32-foot high outdoor piece is housed at Denver International Airport. The artwork, created by Luis Jimenez, it’s an example of western imagery meets gaudy painted carnival fiberglass.
The statue was 13 years overdue when it finally made its appearance in 2008. The work was over-budget (originally commissioned at $300,000), and lawsuits between Denver and Jimenez ensued. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, in 2006, Jimenez, 66, was standing on a ladder hoisting a section onto the mustang when something came undone. This caused a piece of the sculpture to come crashing down and pinning Jimenez to the floor. A steel beam sliced through an artery in his leg, and he died.
Horses were frequently the subject of Jimenez’ work. As for this mustang, he said he saw the work as a monument to the fierce and powerful animal. The late artist’s friends now say the imposing blue statue is cursed.
Next: You decide what this eyebrow-raising sculpture depicts.
7. Marine Venus
- Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
- Year installed: 1969
Just like the aforementioned Christopher Columbus statue, we recognize that this one also technically does not qualify for our list – this time because the featured artwork in not located in the United States. However, it was hard to leave this one out simply due to its grotesque, can’t-turn-away vibe.
The statue, er, monument, is situated on the grounds of Dalhousie University’s Halifax campus. It first caught our attention on a Reddit page where a user posted it in an Ugliest Statue thread. The work was created by artist Robert Hendrick for Montreal’s Expo ’67. The nearly human-sized sculpture made its way to the university as a gift in 1969.
The statue is in good company, according to an article written about artwork on Halifax school campuses. The article’s author, Lizzy Hill, writes, “Because of limited budgets, our universities often receive items for display in their permanent collections in just this way: as gifts and donations. Halifax’s universities have acquired some unusual collections of artwork and artifacts that are often eyebrow-raising, unexpected and sometimes just flat-out weird.”
Next: Town honors alien visitor with sculpture.
46 people died on the Silver Bridge after sightings of the Mothman. Please tear this statue down. pic.twitter.com/fOf4P57RTl
— Teepo (@LunarPandorium) August 17, 2017
- Location: Point Pleasant, W.Va.
- Year installed: 2003
While many towns proudly display monuments devoted to military heroes, Point Pleasant, W.Va, has taken an off-the-beaten approach by erecting a monument to Mothman, a mythical creature said to leave in a nearby abandoned TNT factory. Mothman is linked to a centuries-old curse. The winged legendary creature is depicted by the 12-foot tall, silvery statue sporting red eyes. You can’t miss the abundant chest hair engraved right in.
As the story goes, Mothman arrived in Point Pleasant in 1966, scaring couples in parked cars and eating farmers’ dogs. The legendary creature was said to be seven feet tall and possess a piercing shriek. He sported 10-foot bat-like wings and red, glowing eyes. More than 100 reports of sightings went on for a year. Predictably, a book about the spectacle ensued, followed by a movie many years later, in 2001, starring Richard Gere.
The year after the Mothman reports started coming in, the creature was blamed for a local catastrophe when a bridge collapsed, killing 46 people. After the event, word was that Mothman disappeared for good.
For many years, the town has held an annual Mothman festival, and the stainless steel sculpture was unveiled in 2003 at a park which was renamed “Mothman Park.”
Next: An eyeball is depicted, red lines and all.
9. Giant Eyeball
- Location: Chicago
- Year installed: 2010
If you don’t like Chicago’s giant eyeball, officially called, “EYE,” you’ll be happy to know that this one has already gone by the wayside. The 30-foot eyeball structure was on display from July 2010 until November 2010.
The eyeball was created by artist Tony Tasset and assembled by a team in Sparta, Wis., before making its way to Chicago for display. “It is a representation of my eye,” Tasset told Chicago Tribune. “It’s meant to be funny and weird, and it’s one of those kinds of images that is so recognizable that I think a lot of people will project things onto it.”
The eyeball even has its own (now abandoned) Facebook page. “What is the point of this eyeball?!” one person asked on the page.
Tasset went on to have other works displayed in Chicago. These include an 80-foot long multicolored tribute to artists and a giant deer along the Chicago Riverwalk.
Next: Giant red letters greet commuters.
10. Roosevelt Island welcome monument
— Roosevelt Islander (@Rooseveltisland) September 27, 2017
- Location: New York
- Year installed: 2017
New York’s Roosevelt Island, which is part of Manhattan, erected a couple of red nine-foot letters to welcome people to the island. The letters “R” and “I” were initially set up on the Tram Plaza sidewalk, a few feet away from a Red route bus stop. It was actually a mock-up of a final version of the welcome monument, which will be tweaked or changed in the future.
Soon after the mockup of the monument was in place, children were anxious to have their photos taken, and one traveler said the sign made her happy to come home. However, Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society criticized the giant sculpture and called it “an insult to the residents of our community.” The letters interfered with pedestrian flow and blocked access to the bus stops and curbs, Berdy pointed out.
“I encourage our neighbors to protest this siting and the need for RI altogether,” Berdy said. “This sculpture will not attract tourists. It will not promote the island. It will only clutter up a pristine area and detract from the magnificent views we treasure.”
After realizing it was too close to the bus stop and possibly an impediment to travelers’ paths, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. moved the structure closer to the more open Tramway Plaza lawn.
Next: This one can’t just be thrown away.
11. Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain: The ugly past — and fraught future — of the biggest Confederate monument https://t.co/RHZlMmzy0w
— PEN America (@PENamerican) September 21, 2017
- Location: Stone Mountain, Ga.
- Year dedicated: 1970
This monument might not be considered as ugly from its physical appearance as much as it is ugly for the principles it upholds. The 1,700-foot-high granite carving, created in the 1920s, honors Confederate figures Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.
The monument, located just outside Atlanta, is carved 40 feet deep into the mountain. It is reportedly the largest flat relief sculpture in the world. The structure was conceived by Southern Confederate groups. It remains an icon for white supremacists.
In recent months, smaller Confederate monuments have been removed from their locations. Likewise, there has been talk of doing away with the Stone Mountain monument. In this case, however, it would involve scrubbing the three horsemen from the mountain. “This one can’t be moved,” said Joe Crespino, Emory University historian. “It’s the side of a mountain. You either destroy it or leave it in place.”
Next: Terrifying giant or thought-provoking art?
12. The Awakening
This fear manifested when I saw The Awakening in Washington, DC a few years ago. pic.twitter.com/BaDbqHLQxp
— the Road to Omerardo (@ArdoOmer) December 11, 2016
- Location: Prince George’s County, Md.
- Year created: 1980
Not far from Washington D.C.’s traditional, much-visited monuments like Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, you’ll find The Awakening. Created in 1980, the artwork is a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself. It consists of five separate aluminum pieces buried in the ground. Some may describe the work as more disturbing or thought-provoking than it is ugly, and many, indeed, have enjoyed visiting the location and taking photos of it.
Who is the terrifying giant with the distressed face, struggling with all his might to escape? His mouth seems to be depicted as open in mid-scream. Is he being buried in quicksand? Many theories can be garnered from the sculpture’s name.
One interesting piece of the statue’s history is it originally was installed in 1980 in Washington D.C.’s East Potomac Park. However, after being purchased by Milton Peterson, the statue was moved in 2008 to the National Harbor. It now sits on a specially built beach along the Potomac River.
The statue was the inspiration of the robot Goliath, buried under the sand, in the video game Primordia.
Whether you love the screaming giant or hate him, visitors have pointed out on Yelp that is sure is fun to pose for pictures with him.
Next: Decapitated heads or protection by iconic leader?
13. “Radiance” Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Location: Toledo, Ohio
- Year installed: 1989
Located on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge in Toledo, Ohio, this six-foot-tall bronze statue features four faces of the civil rights leader, looking over the city to the east, west, north, and south. It comes from Constancia Gaffeney and Will Clay and was installed in 1989.
While the concept is to have the iconic civil rights patriarch watch over passersby in all directions, the monument has nevertheless appeared on CNN’s World’s Ugliest Monuments list. “Poor Martin Luther King seems have been decapitated four times. What does it mean? Who cares? Just marvel at it,” is how the the CNN article described the statue.
Sadly, the structure was the victim of vandalism in 2010 when pale yellow paint was discovered to have been poured on it. City workers, who attributed the act to be “somebody with nothing better to do than mess the city up,” used power washers to remove the paint. It was unknown whether the vandalism occurred on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or the following day.
Next: Learn the meaning of “lachyrmose.”
14. Tear Drop Memorial
— Marianne Troia (@marianne_troia) September 5, 2017
- Location: Bayonne, NJ
- Year dedicated: 2006
This gift was given to the United States from Russia to honor those who had died in the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy. It stands at more than 100 feet tall and was dedicated at the northeast corner of Bayonne Peninsula on Sept. 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The teardrop, housed in a jagged crack that runs down the middle of the main slab, is lined up with the Statue of Liberty.
While many may find the imposing structure moving and meaningful – after all, it’s hard to argue the sculptor’s heart wasn’t in the right place – the monument inevitably found itself on CNN’s World’s Ugliest Monuments list. The news outlet referred to the structure as “a touchy subject and one unsuccessfully addressed in this lachrymose ‘gift’ from Russia to the United States. Thanks, Vladimir!” To save you the time, we’ve looked up “lachrymose,” and it means “given to weeping or inducing tears.”
The New Yorker called the monument “a giant tea biscuit.” Others have complained about its inaccessibility. There was an issue in which of the 3,024 individuals’ names engraved on the monument, 43 had to be deleted from the list. Either way, the monument has moved many to tears in spite of some people’s criticisms.
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