This was in my local paper today:http://www.fdlreporter.com/article/20081113/FON0101/811130352&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL
Explicit exhibit at UW-FdL: Controversial use of photos is stirring debate about what is appropriate in a public building
By Sharon Roznik • November 13, 2008
An art exhibit at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac that includes a wall of "soft porn" and another wall of images taken off of MySpace.com has raised controversy.
Warnings pasted on the art gallery windows to block the view of passers-by in the hallway describe a display of images inside that "objectify" women and men, as well as local people objectifying themselves.
UW-Fond du Lac Foundation board of directors President Leo Santini and Treasurer Michael Krueger viewed the exhibit called "Objections to Objectifications" on Wednesday morning, accompanied by Dean Daniel Blankenship. Both board members declined to comment on what they observed.
Several young women whose images were on display — taken from their MySpace pages on the Web — confronted UW-Fond du Lac assistant art professor John Scotello. [I deleted the next sentence because I don't agree with the Reporter publishing the names of the women.]
The examples of sexual objectification taken from the My- Space pages of men and women living within a 50-mile radius of Fond du Lac were easily accessible and were made by people looking to draw attention to themselves, Blankenship said.
"Putting these images on a wall created a bit of a stir, which makes us wonder why these people aren't more alarmed about putting these images out there on the World Wide Web," he said.
Fond du Lac Police Chief Tony Barthuly said the department did receive a citizen complaint about the UW-Fond du Lac art exhibit on Friday, Nov. 7. A detective and computer forensic investigator viewed the exhibit but found nothing illegal.
"They did observe pornography displayed but did not observe any pornographic images of underage children," Barthuly said. "The room that is housing the display was closed and locked. Investigators spoke with the art professor in charge of the project, the head of the art department and the assistant dean during the investigation. The investigators made it clear that it could be a crime to allow underage children to view the material in the room."
The exhibit was a response from the art department from discussions that had taken place (in the college) about nudity and undraped figures, Blankenship said.
Some faculty and students had objected to nude drawings that were sometimes put on display in hallways. The artwork came from Scotello's life-drawing classes, in which UW-Fond du Lac students and others serve as nude models.
The group project assigned to his art students explored the notion of human beings as objects, Scotello said, most pointedly the sexually explicit images people were posting of themselves on the Internet.
"In a survey, 100 percent of my art students said they felt pressure to look a certain way. The majority also said there was cultural-induced pressure to act in a sexual way before they were ready," Scotello said.
A wall of pop culture images taken from ads in mainstream magazines appeared worse, in certain ways, Scotello said, than the nude images his students brought in, cut from the pages of well-known erotica magazines like Playboy, Playgirl, Penthouse and Maxim.
In one ad, a woman was dressed in a dog suit, urinating on a stairway. In another, advertising a brand of bicycle, two nude women are sitting in the back of a limousine with fruit poised above their groin areas.
"Actually, the mild pornography, which doesn't involve erections or insertions, seems more wholesome compared to some of the images displayed in the mainstream, commercial culture," Scotello said.
A final wall showed nude images familiar from a historical art perspective.
Scotello said most disturbing to him among all the juxtapositioned images of nudity were those of young people marketing themselves to millions of potential viewers, inviting any kind of attention.
"I think everyone needs to realize that these came from people who live around us," Scotello said. "And the real message of the walls, as artwork, is to purposely create dialog to discuss this type of body image and men's and women's issues."
Art student Laura Watanabe of Fond du Lac said she liked doing the project and hopes it opens people's eyes about how they are portraying themselves to the world.
"Look at it this way. Less people are seeing their images on this wall than when it is up there on a MySpace page," she said.
Professor Paisley Harris, a member of UW-Fond du Lac's steering committee, said the group issued a written statement in support of Scotello's exhibit, and any works of art, fiction or literature promoting freedom of inquiry and expression that would "lead to a better understanding of the world and the human condition."
"I see concerns about objectification — sometimes people being uncomfortable with viewing it. I think obviously there is a very different distinction between nudity and objectification, and that's one of the things that promoted him (Scotello) to do this exhibit," Harris said.
Kitty Kingston, art chair for Wisconsin's two-year college system, said the topic is age-old in art appreciation circles. She mentions the famous but controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and his edgy work showing sadomasochism.
"What seems pertinent today is if students are upset about these images on the wall, I wonder what they are thinking when they post an image of themselves in cyberspace," Kingston said. "I think it is a very important topic, and it's not about nudity and soft porn. It's about young people who don't understand something like this can affect them the rest of their lives."
UW-Fond du Lac philosophy professor Eric Boos said he required that all four of his classes view the exhibit because it deals with gender issues, human sexuality and human nature. His students, he said, went crazy over the topic and were equally divided between those who believed the display was unnecessary in making the point about objectification and those who thought the display was the only way to really get the message across.
"Art always does a better job of (teaching) philosophy than philosophy does. What John Scotello did in the art display was worth more than a hundred lectures on the subject," Boos confirmed.
Barthuly said although he understands the message Scotello was trying to send to college students, he struggles to understand the need for anyone to display themselves in this venue.
"I appreciate and respect that they are over 18, but still have a hard time understanding the need to share this type and other information worldwide. I understand and respect the freedom of speech, but in this case, I would just as soon not see it (the art exhibit) take place."
What do you guys think of this?
While I don't think I would've done it in this way, I do agree with the point the artists are trying to get across. Just a few months ago I posted a rant on a few forums about how women these days are expected to be beautiful, hot bodies, ageless, and sex kittens who will do whatever you want in the bedroom. I have found actual blogs/websites which say that if you don't do what your man wants, he'll find somebody younger/uglier who will. One blog even accused beautiful women of being princesses who end up alone because they refuse to do certain things, and guys know the ugly ones will do anything they want. And the fashions these days--! I wear a tank top under nearly every dressy top I own because they're low-cut or see-through. I want to dress pretty, but without exposing myself.