Confronting Your Fears

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Date: 1994

Region: North America

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Public Art

Artist: Roberta Cohen

Confronting Bodies: Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission, a local community member.

Dates of Action: 1994

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Description of Artwork: Confronting your Fears, features a male figure with an erect penis strangling a woman. The piece was also exhibited with another piece called The Telephone Call. Both drawings were meant to protest family violence and investigate gender roles and social identities.

The Incident: The Baton Rouge Gallery is a cooperative gallery where local artists are allowed to become members of the gallery and exhibit their work. The gallery has had a contract with the Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission to use it's facilities for exhibits, for which the Commission has no curatorial control. A community member complained about Cohen's works, and after reviewing Confronting your Fears and The Telephone Call, Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commissioner, Bill Elam, stated that the pieces were "not something that normal people should be viewing." The Gallery Director, Kathleen Sunderman, and other artists refused to remove their works. The gallery was closed and the artists dismantled the exhibit.

Results of Incident: The exhibit was closed entirely and the ACLU helped the artists file a lawsuit claiming the abridgement of First Amendment rights. Cohen v. Recreation and Park Commission.

Source: Artistic Expression Under Attack, 1995