Saturday, February 20, 2010

City Officials inTemecula, California remove a nude paiting from a city owned gallery

Temecula, California is a 1 hour drive from Palm Springs and there is a world of difference between our cities. Where California is normally considered a liberal state, Temecula would feel more at home in the deep south.

The city has banned books before, a parents group even wanted the dictionary banned because it had bad words. Now of course not everyone who lives there is reactionary, but it appears some those in elected office are.

The above is the painting that was banned.

Here's the story:

"Temecula criticized for removing nude portrait from city-owned gallery.

...The National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter dated Tuesday to City Manager Shawn Nelson protesting the removal of Temecula artist Jeff Hebron's work from a show at The Merc, a city-owned building in front of the Old Town Temecula Community Theater...

"Simple nudity is not sufficient ground for excluding artwork from public exhibition," the letter read. "If it were, a vast amount of great art, including masterpieces like Michelangelo's David, would be off limits...

The letter blames "city management" for the portrait's removal, but Nelson said Wednesday night he didn't know who might have given that order.

"I don't have any information on any of it," he said, adding he wasn't even aware of the issue until he got the letter...

Temecula Community Services Director Herman Parker, whose department runs the theater and The Merc, said the coalition's letter came as a surprise to him.

"We're going to evaluate the letter, evaluate what it says and take a look at what we should do, if anything," he said Wednesday afternoon. "This is all new to us. We're all digesting this."

Temecula Mayor Jeff Comerchero could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. Hebron and the show's other co-chairwoman, Angela Morris, also could not be reached...

Hebron entered the work, whose title was not immediately known, for "Visual Expressions 2010," a juried show sponsored by the Arts Council of Temecula Valley that is scheduled to run through Sunday...


She said she saw the painting. "It was a little bold, but it wasn't a porno or anything," Landry added.

Art show registration forms typically contain language explaining that the show reserves the right to choose what is displayed, Landry said.

Daniel Foster, a past executive director of the Riverside Art Museum, said one way to deal with controversial art is to put a notice at the entrance of museums and galleries so patrons know what they're about to see. However, some in the arts community view such notices as a form of censorship, he said..."

Now what I thought was interesting is the mayor and city manager who said they were surprised by the censorship, could have easily have ordered the art gallery to allow the painting or issued an apology for the censorship. That is what a responsible public official would do. As Harry Truman said, the buck stops here.

The censorship act happened Wednesday, as of Saturday's paper, the painting is still banned. So much for the mayors and city manager's phony surprise. If a city employee can order the painting banned, then obviously the city manager or mayor can order it reinstated. City council does not have to vote on it.

Censorship is a terrible thing. Sadly our first amendment rights in the US are being destroyed by the reactionaries and extremists in our own country.

We need to be diligent and to remove from political office the bozos that are destroying our rights.

Tom Mulhall
Terra Cotta Inn Clothing Optional resort and spa, Palm Springs, California

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