The Myths Behind Nude Art FlapIt has been two weeks since...


August 29, 1993

The Myths Behind Nude Art Flap

It has been two weeks since The Sun printed "Nude Gets The Cold Shoulder," written by reporter Kerry O'Rourke. In that time, the nature of this issue has become mythological, as do most stories with telling and re-telling.

As executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council, I feel it is necessary to dispel some of the reported myths that appeared both the previously mentioned article and the editorial, "Reflections on a Nude," on Aug. 17.

First, Mr. Sterner is not a member of the Carroll County Artist Guild. He was a guest exhibitor of the Artist Guild, a visual arts division of the Carroll County Arts Council.

Second, the Artist Guild "arranges the rotating monthly exhibits by local artists" which are displayed at the Carroll County Office building, not the Arts Council. The Arts Council is not involved with the mentioned "screening" process.

The Artist Guild utilizes the space to showcase Carroll County artists. Mr. Sterner is a fine artist from Carroll, who is dedicated to his work and is credible and well-received in our community -- hence the invitation to exhibit at the County Office Building.

Third, and more importantly, Richard Soisson, director of Carroll County Recreation and Parks Department, never "asked artist Thomas J. Sterner to remove from the display his witty nude painting, 'Art Censors Art.'" For that matter, Mr. Sterner and Mr. Soisson have never spoken.

The decision to take down his entire show was Mr. Sterner's. The reason is also Mr. Sterner's. But after several conversations with Tom, who is a valuable member of the Arts Council's board of directors, I believe that he did not want to create any negative stigma for the Artist Guild.

County government simply reported concerns that were expressed by an unrecorded number of individuals regarding the context in which "Art Censors Art" was shown. By taking down the entire show, Mr. Sterner conveyed an important message, that the piece in question was as much an artwork as the others. . . .

The content of the piece offended a few employees and citizens at the government office. Others took the piece and its message in the spirit it was given. This is evident in the reported "giggling." Perhaps the giggling was a result of the humorous quality of the piece, an element quite frequently found in Mr. Sterner's work. I doubt that any adult would be caught giggling in the hallway over a semi-nude figure, but the reporter never bothered to ask why there was laughter. . . .

Finally, TV, news and radio reports have neglected to mention that Mr. Sterner's works hung in a solo exhibition at the Arts Council gallery in March of this year. "Art Censors Art" was seen bymany Carroll citizens with no objections. The Carroll County government provides an essential portion of the funding for Arts Council programs including the gallery and administrative offices. The "officials" acted responsibly in reporting the requests of individuals willing to form a "majority" and asked the Artist Guild to evaluate the appropriateness of the County Office Building as a gallery space.

Art is an individual's interpretation of the world around him or her. This includes landscapes and the human form. Unfortunately, society has set up rules and boundaries that sometimes conflict with the best of artistic intentions.

As an art lover, I am grateful to live in a country where our government is duty bound to honor the request of the majority. I am grateful that the majority still upholds the right to freedom of ,, speech and expression.

Hilary Anne Pierce


The writer is executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council.

Sheriff's Rebuttal

Normally, I do not respond to newspaper editorials, in which I have been criticized. As an advocate of the First Amendment under the Constitution of the United States, everyone has a right to his opinion. However, when pieces are printed that grossly misrepresent my intentions, I feel compelled to "set the record straight."

I refer to the editorial in The Sun on Aug. 2, entitled, "Sheriff Brown's Scare Tactics." I am portrayed as "hard-balling" the commissioners into building an addition to the existing detention center by not supporting a home detention program.

You have combined two separate issues -- home detention and an 80-bed addition -- into one. Yes, I am adamant about providing an 80-bed addition consisting of "bricks, mortar and steel bars" rather than a modular type structure, which has been proposed. One structure provides strong public safety; the other hTC leaves a lot to be desired. Public safety for the citizens of Carroll County is my main concern.

However, my threatening to "not take advantage of the home detention program" for the purpose of obtaining an addition is a blatant erroneous statement. I was instrumental in drafting and submitting to our local senator a home detention bill for Carroll County. This bill passed the legislature and becomes effective Oct. 1.

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