Nearly 100 years after Marcel Duchamp made “Fountain,” bathroom plumbing fixtures are still way too edgy for Hot Springs, Arkansas. According to local news station KTHV, botanical artist Tonie Atkinson has been fined $10,000 and is expected to show up in a Garland County court next month to answer for a yard crowded by toilets she deems art. “Just because you can’t appreciate it, doesn’t make it not art,” Atkinson told the station.
She has a point. When Duchamp submitted his porcelain urinal, signed “R. Mutt,” for exhibition at the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, the curators sent it back and said it wasn’t art. Yet many art critics have since called it one of the greatest works of the 20th century, and many other artists have riffed on Duchamp’s work. In 1991, Sherrie Levine crafted a bronze version of his infamous urinal, while Tom Burtonwood has given it colorful new life in 3D printed form. More recently, Claudio Ahlers turned an old toilet block in Bristol, England into an exhibit hall. Why shouldn’t Atkinson follow in their footsteps?
But it may be that the retired air force sergeant found her inspiration from an entirely different source: Pinterest. The website is awash with images (like this one) of urinals and crappers overgrown with pansies and petunias. It’s really not a terrible idea if you’re into shabby chic.
Wherever Atkinson got it, she’s not backing down. She told the station she has plenty more artsy toilets coming to her yard. “I’ll probably be working on [them] 10 years from now,” she said.