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The Tentacle


March 17, 2004

Drawing the Curtain at FCC

Joe Volz

I had barely read that delightful story by Katherine Heerbrandt in the Frederick News-Post about the art exhibit brouhaha at FCC when I decided it was time to see for myself.

In case you missed the piece, some of the good burghers who perform in the college's Jack B. Kussmaul Theater were so upset by the sight of paintings of nude bodies in the theater lobby that they erected a black curtain around the most "offensive" paintings.

Organizers of the Maryland Junior Miss Pageant said the exhibit wasn't appropriate for their audience. And Dr. James Bowes, of the Frederick County Orchestra, who happens to be a retired gynecologist, said the paintings went too far for the younger set. The college is publicly funded and should take the community into consideration, he said.

So, the black curtain descended over the paintings and a note was put up announcing, "Ladies and Gentlemen. The artwork in this viewing area is of a particularly sensitive nature. Please use discretion in entering." (The organizers apparently did not get the OK from the college to censor the exhibit.)

The paintings that seemed to offend the censors most were some frontal female nudes done by Sarah Stecher. One is a frontal of the female pelvic region covered by a pear.

One of the censors claimed that the painting showed a woman masturbating. I did not get that impression but, after all, I have not been in Frederick long enough to have the right perspective on community standards. Ms. Stecher says her work is designed to show the "sensuous beauty of fruit and the human body."

I am told by long-time residents that there is nothing like a nude to steam up the local populace. I understand a painting of George Bush I, on display at a reputable art gallery a while back, really incensed the citizenry, as did a performance at the Weinberg that featured full frontal nudity.

I am not given to reading normally dry operating regulations but I hear that the Weinberg Center's board of directors rewrote the list of things that are banned on the stage in what some connoisseurs say is a classic in pornographic writing. Everything was described graphically.

Anyhow, over at FCC, the exhibit of 30 or 40 art works, all nudes, was titled "The Figure." I don't know how the censors figure the college can have an exhibit of the Figure without nudes. Unless, the title should be changed to an exhibit of "Clothed Figures."

The exhibit was assembled by Cynthia Bausch, an artist who says she has been inspired by Rubens. Now, this great Renaissance artist was known to paint a nude or two himself. Full frontal nudity. You wonder if he would have gotten the black curtain treatment, too.

I sat down with the gallery director, Wendell Poindexter, a few days after the curtain went up (It stayed up only for the performances; one of the complaints of the censors was that refreshments were peddled in the lobby at intermission just a few feet from the offending artworks.)

Mr. Poindexter was still steaming.

"What they did was appalling," he said. He said some of his contracts with those who use the theater ban the users from altering the exhibits but there was no such clause in the recent cases. "We're going to have to tighten up," he said.

You still have time to go over and see the exhibit. It runs until April 1 and is free. Just walk into the lobby of the theater. Stecher's paintings sell from $500 to $1,200. She may have to raise the prices now that she is getting so much publicity.

Contact Joe Volz at jvolz2003@adelphia.net



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