“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:
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 Oncefallen.com.