Michael Meads paintings

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Date: 1996

Region: North America

Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation Nudity Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Painting


Artist: Michael Meads (b. 1966)

Confronting Bodies: University faculty and Administrators at Auburn

Dates of Action: 1996

Location: Auburn University Telfair Peet Theatre's Student Gallery

Description of Artwork: Meads' aproximately 40 paintings, ink and oil-pastels use homosexuality thematically, while simultaneously addressing issues of death. Some typical works include portraits of Meads in his studion with male models. Five of the works contained nudity and none displayed sexual activity.

The Incident: The Chief curator and marketing director of the Telfair Peet Theatre, Linda Bell, invited Meads to dsiplay his work during the theatre run of a play entitled "Tis Pity She's a Whore." Bell found Meads work appropriate to be shown with the play because both works challenged cultural norms. The day before the show openned several faculty suggested that Meads' work be removed citing the homosexual nature of the work as a potential flash point of controversy amongst the theatre patrons. Bond, Auburn University's dean of liberal arts, investigated the exhibit upon the faculty's request and recommended to the director of the theatre that the works be removed.

Results of Incident: The theatre department considered removing the artwork in light of pressure placed upon them by the administration. Despite a risk that theatre and arts funding could be withheld by the administration if the theatre did not comply, the directors of the theatre decided to exhibit the work. However, when Meads was notified of the controversy he unilaterally removed his work, in fear that if he did not, the school would have removed it anyway and the theatre and art programs would be placed in financial jeopardy by the University.

Source: Artistic Freedom Under Attack, People for the American Way.