Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Constitutes Acceptable PDA (Public Display of Art)?

What Constitutes Acceptable PDA (Public Display of Art)?

Crystal Barbre's mural beside Deja Vu (photo by Scott Moore)

Well-known Seattle artist Crystal Barbre was commissioned to create a classical-style mural in oil paint beside Deja Vu on 1st Ave in Downtown Seattle. The mural is a celebration of the strong female form, and she's been working on it for the better part of the month with positive support from local residents and passers by.

But Seattle has strange obscenity laws. The city has zero issue with public works of art depicting full frontal nudity... as long as they aren't attached to a strip club.

The original sketch approved by Deja Vu contained nipples (they're part of the female form), but Seattle's obscenity ordinance prohibits "lewd [and] sexually explicit matter... outside of [an] adult entertainment establishment." Of course Deja Vu would prefer to keep the nipples and honour the original intention of Crystal's vision. But the definition of 'lewd' & 'sexually explicit' is subjective, and the language in the ordinance is ambiguous enough that what began as an empowering art installation could potentially shut down the business.

To avoid legal complications for her friends at Deja Vu, Crystal has covered the nipples, but very much in protest, and the issue has sparked a debate in Seattle's art community about what constitutes acceptable PDA (Public Display of Art).

Jen Graves wrote an awesome article for The Stranger:

And Sarra Scherb followed up at Vanguard Seattle:
Seattle Muralist Crystal Bargbre Alters Her Work to Skirt Obscenity Laws

It's high-time we as a society moved beyond over-sexualising and demonising the feminine form. It's time for us to free the nipple in public art.

~ BCDuncan

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