The Philly Flasher
Region: North America
Artist: Emerson Zabower
Confronting Bodies: Johnson City Area Arts Council (JCAAC); JCAAC Board of Directors
Date of Action: August 1997
Location: Johnson City, Tennessee USA
Description of Artwork: Emerson Zabower’s painting titled “The Philly Flasher” depicts a full-frontal nude male, who is pulling back his overcoat, flashing the audience.
The Incident: Johnson City Area Arts Council (JCAAC) had agreed to display Mountain City artist Emerson Zabower's work at the Arts Council. According to Zabower, he and a council member hung the pieces for his exhibit titled Open Your Mind – Artwork That Makes You Think a week before the show was dated to open to the public. After a well-attended opening reception for the exhibition, enough questions were raised that the JCAAC board rearranged the show and took down the especially controversial piece The Philly Flasher - Zabower's large oil painting of a male with an attitude, featuring an open raincoat, sagging socks, no underwear and full frontal nudity. The painting right next to it was a female nude which no-one found objectionable. Zabower objects to the censorship of his painting claiming that when the JCAAC gave him the criteria for the show, there was nothing that said what kind of subject matter he could or could not put into the exhibit.
Results of Incident: Zabower appealed and protested the decision to the Board of Directors in order to have his work displayed for the public. The Johnson City Area Arts Council moved the work to a back room where it could be seen only by request. Spokespeople for the Council claim they are not censors. Nonetheless they have removed a work of art from the walls of their gallery.