They're Calling for a Flowery War...; Fire Starter

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Date: 1995

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Painting


Artist: Laray Polk, Bob Nunn

Confronting Bodies: Irving Arts Center officials, local residents, and Irving mayor

Date of Action: 1995

Location: Irving, Texas

Description of Artwork: Polk's, They're Calling for a Flowery War in a Land of Waste, a Land of Haste, Feirefiz and His Half-brother Tear the Veil, the Moyomot, the Wings of Maya Zuzumen Black (ink) Foot Night of Moth Sleep Bringer, is a 20 by 8 foot image of two heroic-size male figures, snippets of a pop song written in Chaucerian English, a giant moth being ripped apart by its wings, and the outlines of a city behind a mound of upturned books. Nunn's painting, Fire Starter, features two abstract phallic symbols rubbing against each other surrounded by flames.

The Incident: The Irving Arts Center invited Polk and Nunn to exhibit their works in an exhibit honoring faculty at North Lake College. They did not view They're Calling for... prior to its installation. A board member complained to the mayor that Polk's piece was not appropriate because of its nudity. The gallery director, Rosi Meng, suggested that Polk remove the work because the city attorney declared it obscene.

Results of Incident: Polk excited media attention and the gallery director and curator denied that the city attorney considered the work obscene; they also reversed the decision to remove the work and decided to install a disclaimer warning of frontal nudity and "material not suitable for children." Several other artists threatened to remove their work if Polk's was removed; the board voted 4-3 to allow the piece to remain.

Source: Artistic Freedom Under Attack, 1996; http://www.dallasobserver.com/1995-05-25/news/culture-clash/