The ban on “sex offender” art

Leaving the artwork up could serve as a trigger for our students and staff who have been victims of child abuse and sexual assault. Since the display is at the campus main entrance where our students and staff are required to enter and exit, the potential to trigger is very real. . . . In the end the requirement to provide a safe place for our students stands paramount.

— President of the University of Southern Maine explaining his order to remove three paintings from an art exhibit upon learning that the artist was a registered sex offender.

The exhibit was a curated group show entitled “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape.” The artist whose three paintings presented “a very real” potential to trigger traumatic memories of abuse was a well-regarded Maine painter whose “industrial landscape” work looks like this:

Title: Distant Industry. “I painted this piece plein air at a local closed paper mill. . . The smokestacks, the icons of the Industry survive to remind us of our past.”

Title: Cape with Yellow Truck. “Many times in my travels in the back roads of Maine I have come across these old trucks just rusting in the fields. . . put to pasture, so to speak.

Title: Signs and Overpass. “The painting was all about simple design and the feeling of loneliness.”

He’s on Maine’s SORA registry based on a conviction from 20 years ago for which he served six months in jail. When the show went up, a relative of the victim complained to the Prexy.  Before you could say “public safety,” his three paintings were gone.

The outraged curator refused to replace them.  Instead, she put placards in the empty spaces saying:

Apparently the placards also constituted a clear and present danger of invading the safe space of victimized students.  The Prexy had them removed.

Mind you, this wasn’t the act of some freshman snowflake melting over being assigned to read “Hamlet.”  This was the middle-aged president of a state university proclaiming in all seriousness that looking at a painting of Maine landscape has the “very real” potential to trigger a traumatic episode.

The greatest absurdity, of course, is his notion that college students take their noses out of their Smartphones long enough to notice anything at all, unless it’s something to eat.

Tiffany: Hey, Jason, there’s an art show on campus called “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape.” Let’s go see it.

Jason: I don’t know.  There might be a painting of a smokestack by a sex offender.

Tiffany: You’re right, we’d better not risk being traumatized.

Jason: On the other hand, there’s free wine and cheese.

Tiffany: What are we waiting for? Let’s get there before it’s all gone!

The artist was generous about it, saying he was sorry his paintings had drawn “negative attention” to the exhibit.

At least he’s in good company. The National Gallery of Art in D.C. just canceled a show of Chuck Close because of allegations of verbal sexual harassment by a portrait model. What if Leonardo had said something fresh to Mona Lisa? Would the Louvre send “La Gioconda” back to Italy in disgrace?

The only solution is a Salon des Refusés for artists rejected from mainstream venues based on their sexual misbehavior. Starting with Gauguin, Picasso, Close and our painter of Maine landscapes. There would be lines around the block.

h/t to @TheDobbsWire

Postscript: In September, the Anti-Registry Movement will hold an outdoor art show of works by SORA registrants in front of the USM campus. For more information, go to

About Appellate Squawk

A satirical blog for criminal defense lawyers and their friends who won't give up without a squawk.
This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Satire and parody, SORA. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The ban on “sex offender” art

  1. Rob says:

    If only he managed to murder someone instead, we could all enjoy his paintings.


  2. E.s. says:

    Careful, Squawk! Soon schools may ban your blog lest it upset the students, instead of using Squwak to teach them how to think for themselves.


  3. Brian Cowles says:

    Oh, come now, Squawk, surely you can see that towers are just giant phallic symbols and trucks are emblematic of toxic masculinity? Of course, a rusting truck is different, probably symbolizes the end of toxic masculinity or some such. As for the third one, I’ve got nothing.

    All joking aside, it can be difficult to separate the art from the artist. I woud think that a painting should be easier to separate from the painter than, say, a novel from an author – but, unfortuately, I can’t articulate why.


    • We don’t see the connection between judging art in any form and judging the artist’s personal life. To quote the sculptor Giacometti, “Art and life are not the same.”


    • Rojas says:

      As a life long resident of tornado alley I’d reckon all three paintings depict mighty fine safe spaces. If you’ve ever been triggered, out on a wide open pasture, well there isn’t nothing sweeter than an old rusty dump truck when that wall cloud comes rolling in.

      I think Squawk underestimates the young folks appreciation of Leonardo. We was at the Louvre just a few years back and the line was about a mile deep to see the Mona Lisa. One after another they turned their backs raised their smartphones and took a selfie. When my turn came up I got the impression of a beautiful lady staring back at world with a hint of empathy for those in the asylum.


  4. Dogstoyevsky says:

    Why doesn’t this type of use of the s.o. registry make it unconstitutional, ex post facto punishment?


  5. kemn says:

    Are they going to remove everything from the campus related to anyone who’s ever behaved “inappropriately” (insert your definition of inappropriate) towards anyone else? (except for white, cisgendered males)

    How about anything that might “trigger” someone (anyone). For example, “I was bullied by a football player for being homosexual, please get rid of the football stadium”. That actually could be interesting…I suppose i could claim trauma from having to take Calculus three times, and request that they remove it from the course catalog.


  6. Pingback: Eeek! A picture of an overpass! Protect me! – NARSOL

  7. I look forward to triggering a few of those snowflakes when I host art from registered persons right in front of the university in September. I may not be able to show it on campus but the sidewalks are open to the public.


  8. Pingback: Destroyed lives – NARSOL

  9. Pingback: THE BEST OF APPELLATE SQUAWK 2010-2020 | Appellate Squawk

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