Art Blog

‘Bravegirl’ sculpture brings a message of empowerment to Poydras Street

'Bravegirl' empowerment sculpture by Tara Conley appears on Poydras Street near S. Peters - 3
‘Bravegirl’ empowerment sculpture by Tara Conley appears on Poydras Street near S. Peters – 3 (Photo by Doug MacCash / | The Times-Picayune)

Doug MacCash, | The Times-Picayune By Doug MacCash, | The Times-Picayune
Follow on Twitter
on April 24, 2017 at 10:50 AM, updated April 24, 2017 at 10:59 AM

A glittering plum-colored sculpture by Houston artist Tara Conley arrived on Poydras Street near S. Peters Street amid rush hour traffic on Monday (April 24) morning. The 24-foot-long metal construction is like an advertisement, spelling out the word “Bravegirl” forward and backward in three dimensions. But “Bravegirl” isn’t a product, it’s a concept.

As Conley explained, little boys are taught to be brave when they get a cut on their fingers or have to confront a bully. We don’t apply the word to girls so much, she said, despite the fact that girls are called on to be brave every bit as often. Even when they grow to be women.

A friend of hers, Conley said, felt she might be being stalked as she walked to the store. She took the long way home, hoping to elude a potential attacker. It required bravery.

'Bravegirl' empowerment sculpture by Tara Conley appears on Poydras Street near S. Peters - 2

Somehow the phrase brave girl slipped into Conley’s conversation. She’s a collector of brief poetic word combinations. “Bravegirl,” spelled without a space is one of her favorites.  

She does not see the use of the term “girl” to be a slight.

“I identify with that, and who I am, and who I try to be,” she said of the term “Bravegirl.”

“I identify with it for other females. It’s got strength, but it’s not threatening and has no negative connotation.”

The term “Bravegirl” can be interpreted differently by everyone, she said. “It’s like a mirror.” To emphasize that aspect of her concept, and to allow the sculpture to be read from both sides of Poydras Street, she spelled the word twice, as in BravegirllrigevarB. 

Deepwater Horizon memorial sculpture 'ELEVEN' arrives

Monday (April 24) is international sculpture day  and in the afternoon, female high school students from the Project Butterfly, Navigate Nola, and The Beautiful Foundation organizations will participate in after-school programming with Conley. At 3:30 p.m., the artist will describe the sculpture, then lead a workshop at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

The “Bravegirl” sculpture and installation was paid for by the Helis Foundation as part of the ongoing Sculpture for New Orleans project, which has provided a string of sculptures along Poydras Street and elsewhere.