Art exhibit at OU Southern creates stir

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 12, 2004

The student art photographs were hung in the hallway outside the classrooms in the Dingus Building late last week. And then, they came down.

After fielding questions about the appropriateness of some of the artwork, Ohio University Southern officials relocated the whole display to a conference room where those who are willing may view it, but the rest of the public will not have to see the photographs.

OUS Dean Dr. Dan Evans said the incident underscores the need for dedicated art exhibition space at the campus.

Email newsletter signup

Adjunct Instructor of Art Craig Featherhof said he told his students to do portraits, self-portraits or to use the word "controversial" in creating photographs for their assignment.

Some of the students handed in photographs that included nude portraits of women. Some photographs had themes such as racism.

Shortly after the photographs were hung in the hallway, someone left an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper on the wall next to one of the nude portraits, objecting to the placement of

the artwork in a public place, citing the nudity. The short letter did not have a signature but asked people to "stand up for morals and decency."

Evans said he also received some e mails and voice mails from people who objected to the placement of the photographs.

"I know art is often subjective and some people may be offended by some work and others may not," Evans said. "We did not want to censor but find an appropriate place for it so it did not force people to look at it."

Patty Shively, a Pedro senior majoring in art education, said while some of her photographs had shots of nude women, the women were posed so that private areas of the body were not visible.

"There was nothing showing," Shively said. "What bothered me about it was that they were calling it pornography. "

Hannah Thomas, an Ironton

sophomore majoring in deaf studies and interpretation, said her photographs were meant to depict racism. Some of her pictures showed a person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe, another shot shows a Klansperson and a person dressed in black leather, such as what is associated with The Black Panther movement.

Another photo shows the Klan robe being set on fire. She said she had heard from a friend that her work had gotten a negative reaction in a class.

"What motivated me was the ignorance in some people's minds," She said. "I decided to finally speak up and say something about it. I finally got the express how I feel."

The 90

pieces of art are now on display in the learning and teaching center in the academic building. It will run through the end of the quarter. Featherhof said the display will be rotating, with some photos taken out and others replacing them periodically.

Evans said he would like to see a secure place on campus dedicated for art exhibitions. "In the past this has not been a high priority," Evans said. "But as we grow and offer more classes, we want to give students the opportunity to express themselves through art and this (incident) brings it (the need for an exhibition area) to the forefront."