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Temecula criticized for removing nude portrait from gallery

An anti-censorship advocacy group is criticizing Temecula city officials for removing a nude painting from a city-owned gallery.

The National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter this week to City Manager Shawn Nelson after a portrait of a woman by local artist Jeffrey Scott Hebron was pulled from the show “Visual Expressions 2010” at the Merc gallery because it was not "family-friendly."

“Simple nudity is not sufficient ground for excluding artwork from public exhibition,” the letter stated.

It also cited several U.S. Supreme Court cases that found public officials could not censor material simply because they found it offensive or provocative.

Hebron said he went to the gallery on opening night Jan. 22, expecting to see his painting, but it was not there. He went up to the storage unit in the attic, where he found it stashed, and as he was carrying it down, artists and gallery-goers came by to take a look.

“I’ve been painting for 20 years," Hebron said. "You go to any gallery in the world and you’ll see this. I’m not a political person, but as an artist I feel like everyone should be able to judge for themselves.”

City officials could not be reached for comment.

The coalition's programs director, Svetlana Mintcheva, who penned the letter, said it was probably too late to rehang the painting in the gallery because the show ends Sunday. But raising the issue may prevent a similar situation from occurring, she said.

“We’d like the city to apologize to the artists, but much more importantly, to clarify policy," Mintcheva said. "The city manager cannot come in and censor a curated show.”

-- Amina Khan

Comments () | Archives (5)

This is art, not pornography - something Americans will never understand. Pornography, though some might object - is not an art in the sense of the word.

If it is, then I am heading up to the Getty to ask them to remove "Haystacks" from Monet because I dont like the lighting it sits under.


if you dont think the art work fits under your family values dont take your family in there. its a free country and you have your right to speak just as much as this artist has his right to showcase his beautiful artwork.

let that sink in and let things be and keep your family away from the merc until the display is taken down when its right.

Obviously the nitwits in Temecula have never been to any of the world's major art museums.

"As the curator of Visual Expressions 2010, I take full responsibility for the selection of artwork curated into this show. Although this exhibit was a huge triumph for the arts in Temecula, it has come with controversy over issues of censorship.
During the selection of the artwork I felt I was operating within the guidelines of the show's prospectus. I felt I never strayed from the non-explicit/family friendly guidelines and I believed the piece in question fell within those guidelines.
I want to make clear that I am NOT the person who pulled the painting. I am the person who supported this piece and curated it in.
I support art in all its forms and expressions and as an artist, curator and individual I despise censorship."
This was my full declaration.
Thank you,
Sissi Hale

This was not just unfair. It was illegal.
Even the fact that the show was a juried show and was on public property may have been illegal.

A case in Arizona a city was required to use a non juried criteria for a privately run art fair on public land (acceptance by lottery rather than a jury)
and was also required to make free space available nearby for those who could not afford the booth fees.


9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the city acted unconstitutionally by standing in judgement of what whether or not a painting was art.

The city wan enjoind against requiring license, permit or fees from the artist and was required to allow art sales in the park


City of Temecula, please recognize the first amendment and spell it out in city code. It is mentioned, but needs stronger language and clearer specifics.

And an apology too…

Read more: http://www.swrnn.com/southwest-riverside/2010-02-18/news/temecula-artist-requesting-apology-and-explanation-for-pulling-of-artwork/comment-page-1#comment-26072#ixzz0gDzQHMPw


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