Friday, August 05, 2005

I Can't Read with That Naked Lady There

Virginia Library Relocates Nude Painting
American Libraries Online
August 5, 2005

After receiving complaints from two patrons in mid-July, Chesapeake (Va.) Public Library has moved a painting of a nude from an area near the building’s main entrance to a wall on the opposite side of the facility, behind a row of stacks. Local artist Karen Kinser’s Morning Dreamer depicts a woman, one of whose breasts is visible, reclining in bed; it had been on display for two weeks before the complainants—a mother and a tutor who works with students at the library—objected to its placement in an area where children could see it as they entered the building.

Explaining that the July 13 decision to relocate the 16-by-18-inch painting was hers, Director Margaret Stillman said in the July 29 Norfolk Virginian-Pilot that Morning Dreamer was “just taken out of the pathway to the children’s room.” She added, “We have a very keen sense of intellectual freedom tenets that are critical to a free library system, but we always apply common sense.”

“Why is one art-ignorant person allowed, and even encouraged, by the public library management to dictate what should or should not be shown in our city’s public library?” Kinser responded, characterizing the incident as censorship. Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty pointed out July 30 that the state seal of Virginia features the Roman goddess Virtus standing, with one breast exposed, over the body of a defeated enemy. “The truth is, the people who are disturbed about nudes are adults,” Svetlana Mintcheva, arts program director for the National Coalition Against Censorship, told the newspaper.

The other paintings on display at CPL by Kinser remained near the entrance through July 31, when the exhibit had been scheduled to end. The objection was the first Kinser experienced there in the eight years she has been displaying her work at CPL.



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