Oscar With Chicken
Region: North America
Artist: Robyn Stoutenburg
Confronting Bodies: School principal, city officials
Dates of Action: 1993
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Description of Artwork: Photographer Robyn Stoutenburg's work, entitled Oscar With Chicken shows her nude 4-year-old son holding a chicken and was displayed with twenty-five of Stoutenburg's photographs at the private gallery, Gallery 6 & 13. Other works included additional nude photographs of the artist's son, and several depicting nude women and men.
The Incident: About three weeks after the show was hung, Safford Magnet School Principal Peg Shroder complained to police that the close proximity of the photographs to her school was "inappropriate." She claimed the works were visible to children as they passed by the gallery window. In response to her complaint, without contacting the artist or the gallery, the police went to the gallery and confiscated twelve of the twenty-five works on display. According to Jay Butler, a resident of the building where the gallery is housed, they took "anything with a breast, buttocks, or penis." Police officials said the works were seized under a state statute that "specifically says male and female genitalia or (female) breasts can't be displayed where children can see them."
Results of Incident: After Stoutenburg's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, met with county attorney's office to discuss the works' artistic merit and the First Amendment implications, county officials decided to drop the charges. All of the photographs were returned to Stoutenburg unconditionally, but a copy of "Oscar With Chicken" was left in the county attorney's files.
Source: Artistic Freedom Under Attack 1994