Blake Dews, photographer
Region: North America
Artist: Blake Dews - Troy University art student
Confronting Bodies: Troy University administration
Date of Action: 2004
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Description of Artwork: Blake Dews’ photographs include both male and female nudity. Some of the most controversial photographs displayed male full frontal nudity. Dews’ work contained nude photographs of males and females, but they were not pictured together nor were they engaged in or simulating sexual acts.
The Incident: Dews’ photography, including the pieces in question, was continually reviewed by his professors and classmates as he produced it. He received an “A” for his work and, after the work was hung for a University exhibit, his professor expressed pleasure at the work. When the exhibit opened around Thanksgiving 2003, a warning was placed outside the exhibit indicating that the show contained some nudity. Before the Christmas holidays, Dews was told that the university’s lawyers had told his professor the pictures might be in violation of state obscenity laws. Prior to the spring semester, Dews was asked to remove his work. When he arrived, he found some of the pictures had already been removed from the exhibition.
Results of Incident: In November 2005, Blake Dews sued Troy University saying the school violated his free speech rights by censoring his artwork and implementing a campus speech code that unconstitutionally restricts speech. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, contended Troy officials removed portions of Dews’ artwork from a 2003 University exhibit because it feature nudity. Dews’ lawsuit sought an apology, elimination of the speech code, damages and attorney fees. Because of financial constraints, Dews withdrew his lawsuit in 2007.
Source: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): www.thefire.org; http://al.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.20070709_0000746.MAL.htm/qx