Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Objections to Art

This seems to be a theme this week. First, a friend here in Seattle has objections to the new Olympic Sculpture Park. I don't recall what all her beefs were but I do recall her saying that you are not allowed to touch at least one of the sculptures. I agree with her that this is a wrong approach for public art. If it's in public, it should be durable, accessible and enhance the environment. If you don't do this as an artist, you are going to get a lot of opposition.
Just this week, I read about an artist who dealt with opposition over a piece of public art. In 1981, Richard Serra installed Tilted Arc in the Federal Plaza in NYC. Folks complained that it obstructed passage through the plaza (which it did). The controversy heated up and it was finally removed in 1989.
Just last night, a friend in Nashville told me about the controversy stirred up by a potential field trip for her third-grade daughter. It seems Nashville has a statue called Musica by Alan Lequire. It sits in a traffic roundabout near Music Row. It also seems that someone in the school was going to take these third-graders to "learn about art" by viewing the sculpture. As you can imagine, many parents were upset by this and the field trip has since been altered to please everyone involved. Here's where it gets sticky for me. I am an artist. I love art and will always champion the cause of art when I can. I've seen a picture of the sculpture and it doesn't offend me. I have been in many life drawing classes and drawn the nude figure. It's not a problem for me. But, I understand why some parents wouldn't want their third-grader introduced to this particular piece of art at their age. If it were me, I'd take them myself and try to educate them about art and the depiction of the human body. In my opinion, parents should teach their children to be modest but not that the nude human body is a bad thing. The other problem I have with this situation is the location. Why did Nashville decide to put up a sculpture of this nature when they know that they are the buckle of the Bible belt? It seems like a poor choice of subject matter for the audience. Now, I know that southerners can be a conservative, ignorant bunch when it comes to art. I also know that I wouldn't try to put up a statue of a bunch of naked people in public unless I was wanting to piss a bunch of people off (which I might be inclined to do). Sure, I'd love it if ignorant folk could be educated to the point where they didn't attack art they don't understand but that's not going to happen overnight (if ever) So, in the end I guess I'm saying I like the sculpture but I question their motives and placement.
So, just so you can be clear about what I'm saying here...I am not saying that third-graders should be exposed to nude sculpture. That's up to the parents to decide. What I am saying is that the sculpture isn't a bad thing, it's just a question of where it's on display. Clear as mud?
Yeah, I thought so.


Cassie said...

I appreciate your comments, Marty, and am inclined to agree. I must say, tho, my first thought was of the traffic! You said something about the statue being located in the middle of a traffic round-about which gave me visions of a bunch of 8 yr olds standing on the edge of a busy street, peering across to the sculpture. Now that's scary! Looking more closely at the photo, tho, I see that's not the case. :)

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with my Nashville kindergartener seeing this statue, learning about art, music, etc while viewing this statue, or coming to the bloody realization that not all nudity is sexual. The human body embodies many ideas, only one of which is sexuality.