The Myth of the “Penis” Statue

Despite common belief, the bicentennial sculpture located between Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Pearson is not a phallic symbol.

Popular belief among Phillips Academy students is that the sculpture represents a male reproductive part penetrating a female reproductive part, represented by the circular bush surrounding the statue.

Though Phillips Academy commissioned the work as a celebration of the merger between Phillips and Abbot Academy, the artist’s aim was not to show the physical merge between a male and a female.

Gerry Shertzer, a retired Phillips Academy art teacher, was paid $15,000 to create the shiny, stainless steel sculpture that stands at the southwest corner of the Great Quadrangle.

“The idea of the sculpture was based on the motto of the school: “Finis Origine Pendant,” which means, “The end hangs upon the beginning,” said Shertzer.

Shertzer also decided to name the sculpture after this motto in Latin. In notes on the Bicentennial Sculpture for Barbara Chase, Head of School, Shertzer said, “The idea of a form evolving from an original form at the base was intriguing and in fact became the concept of the present piece.”

Much of the blame for the speculation that the statue is a phallic symbol can be blamed on the bush planted around the work.

Onlookers misunderstand the message of the sculpture because it conceals essential details of the sculpture.

If one walks right next to the bush and peers at the base, one will notice two curves that reflect the slightly larger curves located at the top of the sculpture. If the groundskeepers removed the bush, viewers would be exposed to the sculpture in its entirety.

“It is an extremely unfortunate juxtaposition of plant material and sculpture,” said Timothy Sprattler, School Archivist.

“The bushes weren’t there originally. The sculpture was there all by itself. I think they put the bushes there to protect the sculpture from someone walking across the base, but I had no qualms about students playing near the base. As far as that was concerned, I was fine,” said Shertzer.

There seems to have been some miscommunication between Shertzer and OPP because Ron Johnson, Manager of Grounds at Phillips Academy, said, “[Shertzer] would be the best person to contact regarding the significance of the yew hedge planting around the base of the statue. This evergreen hedge was planted as part of the art installation,” said Johnson in an email to The Phillipian.

Although students comprise some of the main speculators, the cloud of mystery that surrounds the statue has extended to faculty members.

Timothy Sprattler, School Archivist, decided to develop his own reasoning, behind the statue’s form.

“The two round spheres represent the two centuries and the long straight piece represents the straight line that Phillips Academy students take to success. It is open to interpretation,” said Sprattler.

Again, contrary to rumors, the Ricky sculpture located on the OWHL Pavilion is not linked in any way to the Bicentennial Sculpture.

Some students have said that while the Bicentennial Sculpture represents a penis, the Ricky sculpture of two constantly moving triangles represents a vagina. This is false.

“The Ricky sculpture came in around the same time. I think, but I’m not sure. I just dealt with [making my sculpture],” said Shertzer.

One might view this as a disappointment or as relief, but no sculptures in close proximity of or located on the Great Quadrangle are phallic symbols.