My Museum, Selene Colbrun

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Date: 1998

Region: North America

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Mixed Media


Artist: Selene Colbrun

Confronting Bodies: Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts

Dates of Action: July 1998

Location: Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts, Burlington City Arts, Burlington, Vermont

Description of Artwork: A collaboration between Colbrun and artist Dale Witting, depicting a nude male with an erect penis. The figure, which Witting derived from an image in a Mexican magazine, is tattooed with design supplied by Colbrun.

The Incident: The day before the show was scheduled to open, curator Pascal Spengemann found the piece in violation of a Burlington policy that forbids the display of art containing nudity "with strong sexual content" in all public display spaces. Colbrun was not aware of this policy. The gallery declined to compromise by placing the piece in a separate room or putting up a disclaimer.

Results of Incident: Rather than pulling the one controversial piece, Colbrun decided to cancel the entire show out of respect for all artists and artistic expression. This piece and 5 other collaborative works were exhibited at a gallery down the street, but her other forty pieces from the Firehouse show went unseen. The City Arts Director considered changing the policy. (contact Burlington cityarts.com for update)

Source: National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, NCAC