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Churchill Granddaughter Edwina Sandys Created Female ‘Christa’

Edwina Sandys with her 2001 sculpture
Edwina Sandys with her 2001 sculpture "The Marriage Bed." The piece is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum. Photographer: Richard Kaplan/Edwina Sandys via Bloomberg

Her grandfather Winston Churchill turned to painting after saving the world.

Edwina Sandys’s own path in life took her directly to art.

In 1975, Sandys caused near apoplexy in some circles with her sculpture of a female Christ. Installed in the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine during Holy Week in 1984, “Christa” made her famous.

Sandys has gone on to create a variety of influential public artworks across the world. “Breakthrough,” made out of sections of the Berlin Wall, was dedicated by Ronald Reagan and visited by Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher.

A lively dresser, attired in striped leggings and a blue dress, Sandys led me through her retrospective at Alexandre Gertsman Contemporary Art in Soho.

Tarmy: Tell me more about the effects of “Christa.”

Sandys: I’m sure I could have joined the women’s movement and really been part of it, and they would probably have espoused me.

But although I support women being as good -- if not better than -- the opposite sex, I didn’t really go for flag-waving and labels. And I didn’t want to be tied down.

Tarmy: That’s not the only work you’ve done that involves sexual politics. Your piece “The Marriage Bed,” for instance, is quite charged.

Paul Soros

Sandys: Well I like juxtapositions. Marriage can be a cage, but of course it can also be very positive. You know, Daisy Soros commissioned me to make one for her husband, Paul’s, anniversary. I think he was a bit startled when he got it.

Tarmy: Was your grandfather alive to see your art?

Sandys: No, not really, but it would be nice for him to have a look at it now, wouldn’t it? Still, my grandmother liked my art and that pleased me.

Tarmy: What made you move to New York?

Sandys: I didn’t really move, I decided to add another string to my bow. I had found a few clients in New York, had a great time and a few friends. So I decided to be here some of the time, then one thing led to another and I married my American husband.

Tarmy: You’ve certainly made a name for yourself as a noted hostess here.

Sandys: We do entertain a lot. My husband and I are both gregarious, we have a beautiful loft and love to make our friends happy.

Tarmy: What are some of your plans for the future?

Sandys: Some of my works have had a long gestation period. That or they’ve been ready to pop -- but I just haven’t always had the opportunity to place a piece.

I’m still hoping to find the right place for a work called the “Millennium Circle.” I designed it before the Millennium, but it doesn’t matter, we’ve still got almost 1,000 years before the name is invalid. It’s meant to be the size of Stonehenge --a bit of an engineering feat, but it could be done.

Big Is Better

Tarmy: I really appreciate your affinity for monumental sculptures.

Sandys: Well, everything looks good when it’s big. But certainly not everything looks good when it’s smaller.

“Art of Edwina Sandys: A Retrospective” is at Alexandre Gertsman Contemporary Art, 652 Broadway, through Dec. 10, 2011. Information: +1-646-344-1325;

A monograph titled “Edwina Sandys Art” was recently published by Glitterati, with a foreword by Anthony Haden-Guest.

(James Tarmy writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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