Loussac Library Art Show

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Date: 1991

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Photography


Artist: Karen Roush and Jonathan Green

Confronting Bodies: Head Librarian, Anchorage Loussac Library

Dates of Action: 1991

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Description of Artwork: Male Nude Series #1 and Male Nude Series #2 by Karen Roush, and Love Torn Out, by Jonathan Green. The works were photographs including two frontal shots of a naked male standing in shadows, a shadowy shot of a naked man sitting on a stool with his back to the photographer, and a self-portrait of Green kneeling, covering his genitals and clutching a bloody pig's heart in front of his chest.

The Incident: Acting unilaterally, a librarian removed award-winning photographs from a planned public exhibit in the Loussac Library in Anchorage. The Library had agreed to display winners of the University of Alaska at Anchorage Sixth Annual Camera Club juried art show, but as the photographs were put up, the librarian removed both Roush's and Green's work. The librarian maintained that the photographs were inappropriate for display in an area where children might see them because they included nudity. "There was a feeling that [Green's] in particular might really give a child some nightmares," commented the librarian's superior, who backed the removal. The Alaska ACLU protested the removal, calling it censorship. "The photographs in question are not even close to obscene," said the director of the ACLU, noting that other materials in the library contained more explicit images. "The cover of Gray' Anatomy comes to mind," the director said. The Alaska Library Association Committee on Intellectual Freedom also objected to the decision. The photographers challenged the librarian's decision and filed suit. Soon after the library offered an alternative space to display the exhibit-- a conference room that was considerably less public than the walls next to an elevator where the pictures had originally been hung. The artists rejected the offer and went forward with their lawsuit. In a hearing over the suit, a superior court judge described the library's decision "arbitrary" and ordered that the photo's be re-exhibited. Technically, the suit is still pending, but observers expect the artists, having already achieved their immediate goal, to end the suit.

Results of Incident: Work removed, then restored after court decision in favor of artists.

Source: People for the American Way