City & County of Honolulu

City allows display
of banned nude art

Daria Fand's painting
of a woman on a crucifix was
banned from Honolulu Hale

By Rosemarie Bernardo

The city will display a painting of a nude woman on a crucifix that it had banned from Honolulu Hale a year ago, according to the settlement of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.

"This is a year overdue," said artist Daria Fand, who painted the work, titled "Last of the Believers."

The ACLU sued the city after Fand was told she could not display her work in the "Art of Women" exhibit last March. Initially, city officials told Fand her piece was inappropriate for children. Later, they told her it was banned because of its size and because it was submitted late.

This is a photo of Daria Fand's painting, "Last of the Believers," which was banned last year from the "Art of Women: Celebrating the Challenges and Successes of Girl and Women Artists with Disabilities" exhibit at Honolulu Hale. The city has agreed to display the painting at an exhibit this year.

The ACLU sued the city in August. As part of the settlement announced yesterday, the painting will be displayed at a March 16-31 Honolulu Hale exhibit featuring the art of women.

"This is certainly a vindication of the principle that the government cannot censor art or speech based upon its content," said ACLU legal director Brent White.

Last year, Fand was one of several artists invited by the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women and the Mayor's Office on Culture and the Arts to display her paintings at the exhibit.

In a Star-Bulletin story last August, Marylucia Arace, chairwoman of the committee, said Fand's entry was submitted more than two weeks after the deadline and measured 5 feet by 3.5 feet. Arace said the largest size accepted for the exhibit was 18 inches by 24 inches.

Fand said larger paintings and works involving nudity were displayed at the show. Furthermore, Fand said, she and other artists submitted other paintings after the deadline that were featured in the exhibit.

Fand said she believed her painting was banned based on "the controversial nature of the woman being Christ-like."

The nude woman on the cross was to give viewers a woman's sense of sacrifice, she said.

"I simply used a cross as a metaphor for that. It wasn't a commentary on Christianity," Fand said. "Even if I had some sort of religious parallel, I still think the city needs to remain objective regardless of what their interpretation was. It's really up to the observer to make that decision."

White noted: "The artist's portrayal of a nude woman does not make the censorship any more acceptable. In fact, the 'Art of Women' exhibit itself contained other paintings of nude women."

City officials decided to allow the piece to be displayed in this year's exhibit "in the interest of moving on," said city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

As part of the settlement, the city is expected to pay ACLU $5,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

The city will also suspend a part of its exhibit application form until it creates a policy that prohibits content-based discrimination.

"The First Amendment protects even controversial or offensive speech," White said. "Rather than risk offending certain individuals, the city deprived Ms. Fand of her constitutional rights and all of us of the opportunity to view the work of a fine artist and to make up our own minds about the piece."

City & County of Honolulu

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