ACLU sues cityA LAWSUIT by an artist claiming the city is violating her First Amendment rights by barring display of a nude painting at City Hall has touched off a series of charges and countercharges.
over nude art
The artist says her work was
unfairly barred from a civic
display about women
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing local artist Daria Fand, filed suit in U.S. District Court yesterday, stating that her painting "Last of the Believers" was wrongly barred from display. The painting shows a nude woman on a cross.
Fand was one of several artists invited by the Honolulu Committee on the Status of Women and the Mayor's Office on Culture and the Arts to display paintings in the exhibit but was later told her painting "would need to be pulled for review," said ACLU legal director Brent White.
"The city banned this piece because they thought it was controversial and might offend certain individuals," White said.
"This censorship of Ms. Fand's artwork is, in itself, offensive," White said. "It also violated her First Amendment rights in a clear manner."
He said Fand should be given compensation for the opportunity lost by not being able to display her artwork.
A news release issued late yesterday by the city said size and tardiness, not content, were the reasons a city committee barred the painting.
The release was attributed to Marylucia Arace, who chaired the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women when it held the exhibit, "The Art of Women: Celebrating the Challenges and Successes of Girl and Women Artists with Disabilities."
"It was the organizers' entry guidelines that resulted in Daria Fand's artwork not being included in the exhibit at Honolulu Hale," Arace said. "Ms. Fand's entry came in too late and was too large to be accepted."
Arace said Fand's entry was submitted more than two weeks late and was 5 feet by 3.5 feet when the largest size accepted was 18 inches by 24 inches.
White disputed that.
"They told her it did not fit the criteria for free public viewing," White said.
The city cannot argue tardiness because Fand had submitted another piece at the same time which was accepted into the show, as were works submitted by other artists after the deadline.
Fand said she has no doubt that her painting was banned "due to the subjective evaluation of a few officials catering to a hyper-conservative religious mind-set." She noted that the city even listed her painting in the exhibit's catalog.
Fand said those who see her painting can draw their own ideas about what the oil-on-canvas painting means.
"I think in general, I could say that I'm trying to call attention to the sacrifice that women often make in relationships, their families or in their jobs and often feel a sense of martyrdom," she said.
White said other artists have, in the past, also been barred from displaying their work at City Hall. Fand's situation is just symptomatic of the city's ignorance about adhering to the First Amendment, he said.
One of the secondary goals of the lawsuit, he said, is to "prevent future censorship by this city at future art shows."
City & County of Honolulu