Archive for Sunday, May 24, 1998


May 24, 1998


A fledgling arts coalition and a local business have severed ties after the owner deemed some artwork too controversial to display.

``It was a decision I made personally,'' said Derek Hogan, owner of Java Break, where the artwork was to be displayed. ``I had four or five complaints about the material, and it is not my job to argue with customers. Some found it offensive, with images that were violent to women.''

The Java Break, 17 E. Seventh, had essentially turned over the business' wall space to Art Whore, a coalition of Lawrence artists, writers and performers. The group was to function as a mediator between the business and artists by arranging shows, lining up artists and hanging the artwork.

The Art Whore ``Retrospective'' exhibit, featuring the work of six area artists, was to open Saturday, but the show was pulled before anyone could see it.

In an ironic twist, the Art Whore exhibit was sponsored in conjunction with the Kansas City Coalition Against Censorship, and the opening was to kick off the ``Culture Under Fire'' week the group was promoting.

Now some of the artists are wondering if they have become victims of censorship.

``Ironic is the word I use over and over to describe this situation,'' Lawrence artist Jodi Brown said.

``This came as a complete surprise, and it is rather disappointing and confusing,'' Art Whore founder Tyson Schroeder said. ``There are two different points of view. The business feels the art should be decorative, and we feel art should engage you and make you think.''

Two sculptures by Brown were called into question. One portrays a pig on its back lying on a mattress made from the U.S. Constitution, with money centered at the groin.

A second shows a woman with her stomach open, holding a newborn and connected to the child by IVs and cords.

Brown said violence toward women was not what she was trying to convey.

``It's multifaceted in that I show how we surround ourselves with insubstantial things and pass them on,'' she said.

In an earlier interview, Brown stated that her work was meant to target American pop culture, using extreme images to satirize society.

Although only Brown's work was labeled objectionable, all the artists opted to pull their work and cancel the show.

Hogan, who is an advocate of local artists, said his decision was not meant to censor Brown.

``If the government came in and set up a community standard, that would be censorship,'' he said. ``But this is not a gallery where people come to see the Art Whore exhibit alone. I hope I don't sound like the evil censor, but this is a business, and I make my money off coffee and food.''

Although Schroeder said the group is going to look for its own gallery space, the two sides are still on speaking terms.

``Tyson told someone we were both practicing our First Amendment rights,'' Hogan said. ``Which was a good way to put it, I thought.''

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