TORONTO—A media flurry over a butter sculpture of Mayor Rob Ford has left its 24-year-old creator bewildered.
Olenka Kleban hadn’t expected the flood of press that turned up for the unveiling Aug 30 at the Canadian National Exhibition, though it was attended by none other than the mayor himself.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous,” Kleban said in a phone interview.
Kleban is a recent OCAD graduate who has been sculpting butter for themed exhibits at the CNE for the past six years since moving to Toronto from Hamilton.
He was asking for it. He’s somebody who’s a character, somebody who’s built himself up as a character.
— Olenka Kleban
The golden sculpture of Ford portrayed him steering a vehicle with his elbow while reading a Margaret Atwood novel. Kleban calls the depiction literal more than metaphorical.
“Rob Ford himself inspired it—he provided the material,” she said. “He’s an easy subject, especially in Toronto, especially now,” she said.
The reference to the steering wheel was inspired by the recent picture taken of Ford driving on the Gardiner Expressway while reading a document.
The novel refers to Ford’s brother, councillor Doug Ford, who had a very public spat with acclaimed Canadian novelist and poet, Margaret Atwood. Atwood was speaking out against the city for considering closing some library branches to cut costs in the face of budget shortfalls.
“[Rob Ford] was asking for it; he’s somebody who’s a character, somebody who’s built himself up as a character. He makes racy statements and projects himself as a … he’s more than just a mayor, he kind of projects himself as an entertainer,” Kleban said.
It took Kleban six days to sculpt her vision, and she says she would have added more detail if she’d had the time.
The morning of the unveiling, newspapers were abuzz with reports of Ford potentially losing his job in an ongoing conflict-of-interest court case at which he will testify on Wednesday.
Reporters were also excited over controversial comments Doug Ford’s daughter made last week calling on women to dress less provocatively to protect themselves from sexual assault. Her remarks sparked a public outcry and media frenzy.
Kleban figures she provided Ford a welcome divergence from media attention about the more difficult-to-address controversies before him.
Ford liked the sculpture, she said, and told her she was brave and that it must take a lot of skill to make a depiction so similar to his image.
“I was definitely expecting some Ford supporters to maybe make a stink about it, and maybe some have but from what I’ve heard, even Ford supporters enjoyed the sculpture,” she said.
Kleban explained that during her upbringing in Canada, her Ukrainian elders told her stories of political oppression in their homeland, a history that has influenced her interest in politics. Although she would skip over a story of a butter sculpture of a mayor if she saw it in the paper, she hopes to produce art depicting more relevant and important political scenes.
“It is nice that we live in a society that is liberal enough that we can express simple things. We can criticize our political figures, we have that freedom, and we do have political leaders that can take a punch like that.”
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.