American Liberty Upside Down (painting)
Region: North America
Artist: Mary Cate Carroll
Confronting Bodies: Mary Washington College and its Art Department
Dates of Action: October 1983
Location: Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA
Description of Artwork: The painting is a work depicting an American family scene. A man and a woman are sitting on a couch with a child on the mother's lap. The child is depicted only in red dotted outline. In the middle of the child is an actual door which the viewer can open. When the door is opened, the actual remains preserved in formaldehyde of a saline abortion-- a small greenish male fetus curled up head down in a jar, can be seen. The artwork was censored by the art department of Mary Washington College and removed from an already hung show.
The Incident: Mary Cate Carroll was invited by Alma Mater to participate in an art show of six alumnae of Mary Washington College. She was told in writing to bring whatever she wanted to show. She brought a series of paintings called the American Liberty Series. Two days after the show was hung, the college decided that "American Liberty Upside Down" would have to be removed. Carroll called the school and local newspaper. The case escalated into a little national brouhaha when writer and activist, Nat Hentoff, championed her cause in articles in the Village Voice, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. A detailed description of the case can be found in Nat Hentoff's 1993 book, Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee.
Results of Incident: Carroll sued the college and after a two year court battle, showed the piece.
Source: Mary Cate Carroll (Finksburg, MD)