The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, May 10, 2010


About the time in man's evolution that he discovered scratching a cave wall with a stone would result in a mark being left, man began leaving his mark. And, as soon as he figured out that controlled scratching left marks resembling something, he began to draw.

And as learned to draw, he drew those "things" that were important to him: "things" he ate; "things" that wanted to eat him; and "things" with whom he ate and with home he had sex. Behold, the nude.

Artists and patrons of the arts in the community of Sturgis, South Dakota, have recently discovered what communities in Rome discovered prior to the birth of Christ; communities in Africa discovered long before that; and communities in the New World discovered long before the white man appeared on this continent's eastern shores: public art enriches society. They have created a sculpture walk in their town.

Included in that sculpture walk are some sculptures two local ministers of the faith have determined to be inappropriate for public view – to the best of my knowledge – because they include ... boobies. Read about it here.

Before all of us nose-in-the-air sophisticates from Rapid City get too huffy about how unsophisticated those rubes in Sturgis are, I would remind you the partially tax-supported Dahl Fine Arts Center is forbidden by its benefactor from ever displaying a nude within its walls.

That is a shame. Many of the Black Hills community's best artists have in their portfolios unseen depictions of the human figure. Richard DuBois and James Van Nuys come to mind.

Much of Christianity's most treasured images are of the nude figure. Most of those images are displayed in view of the general public. But the two numbskulls in Sturgis believe anything depicting a nipple is obscene, and they are making their voices heard.

The images in this post could not have taken place if art students had not studied the human body, recognized its beauty and applied it to their art.

We shall hope that the city fathers who allowed the sculpture walk to take place in Sturgis will have the intestinal fortitude to tell the two reverends to learn to live with it.


larry kurtz said...

Omg, Mike. You've chosen some beautiful images. This is the first post you've written which I am in total agreement.

Talk of the Nation had a segment on the trend of some orthodox Jewish women adopting more modest dress:

repete said...

1. We all know that nude art IS the gateway to pornography... What's next, public masturbation?
2. You know we get those motorcycle people here, this would send the wrong message and just encourage them.
3. If there is an increase in Catholic school girl pregnancies, who do we blame???

Bill Fleming said...

I think the "nude" prohibition at the Dahl has been relaxed to some degree. You might check with Linda Anderson for specifics, Mike. But you're right, it WAS in the original charter, and all my artist friends used to make fun of the Dahl for that back in the day.

Bob Ellis said...

I like

Michael Sanborn said...


It has been relaxed a bit. But only a bit. Nobody could get away with an entire show devoted to life drawing in there. My understanding is it is still in the charter, they just ignore it on occasion and then apologize to those patrons complain when a rogue nipple sneaks its way into the hallowed halls of the Dahl.

Bill Fleming said...

Larry and Mike, one thing I've noticed (or think I may have) is that many politically "conservative" people tend to have a real "liberal" eclectic sensibility when it comes to art appreciation. Much more so oftentimes than some "liberals" who can be a bit conservative and stogy in the aesthetic tastes sometimes.

It's one of life's nice little surprises, actually.

Bob N., do you suppose that's the Libertarian part that both left and right political factions sometimes share? A sense of celebration of the freedom of the human spirit?