Art exhibit canceled over nude photograph


Published: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 12:52 a.m.
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Local artist Darrien LaMarc Goodman, above, says he was censored by Still Life in G gallery owner Gerard Bencen after Bencen wouldn't allow a nude photo of the artist for the gallery's monthlong featured exhibit.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
A dispute between an artist and a gallery owner over the appropriateness of an image of frontal nudity has led to the cancellation of a downtown art exhibit.
The artist, Darrien LaMarc Goodman, said a nude photograph of himself is an essential element in his "The African Roman," an exhibit of eight to 10 pieces that was to open Jan. 30 at the Still Life in G gallery in Union Street Station in downtown Gainesville. The disputed piece is titled "Crossing Burning Sands."
"It's part of a collage that shows the progression in my growth as an artist," said Goodman, 32, who specializes in abstract drawings in graphite and had put together his exhibit in collaboration with several other Gainesville artists.
But Still Life in G owner Gerard Bencen said he felt the inclusion of a nude photo of the artist - taken not by Goodman but by a photographer - seemed to him inappropriate for his gallery's monthlong featured exhibit. And when he and Goodman couldn't settle their artistic differences, he said, he canceled the show.
"I'm not a prude and I don't have a problem with nudity per se," said Bencen, who has booked another exhibit to run in February in place of Goodman's show. "I told Darrien if it had been a drawing or painting of himself or others, I probably would have had less trouble with it.
"But I thought it exploitive of him to show a photo of himself that was not even his work," he said. "Darrien has his own artistic vision, and he can't really expect everyone to go along. I understood he had a particular message to convey. But he simply created the piece and demanded that I put it on the wall."
The disputed image is the middle panel of a three-piece triptych that he said expresses his artistic growth.
"There's a ritual in black culture that includes literally crossing fire, but before that a person goes through a rite of passage," he said. "Once that process is over, you cross barefooted and naked across fire. It means you have been elevated to the next level in life."
He said the image of himself is not just a snapshot of him in the nude, but a posed photograph designed to help illustrate the theme of his exhibit.
"It's not intended to be pornographic," Goodman said.
Controversy over graphic artwork has surfaced elsewhere in Gainesville in recent years.
For several weeks in early 2000, 13 works by Gainesville artist Pat Payne that included sexual images superimposed on pictures of Jesus Christ and other biblical figures were displayed at Santa Fe Community College. The exhibit drew complaints from some people, but after imposing restrictions preventing minors from seeing them, the school allowed the artwork to remain on display.
And in January 2003, the Harn Museum of Art limited access to its exhibit of "The Culture of Violence." The museum consulted with community groups for the best way to present the exhibit, which included some graphic images of rape and child abuse.
Goodman said he planned to do a poster cautioning visitors that his exhibit contained nudity and might not be suitable for children.
Bencen said he offered Goodman a chance to do the exhibit without the nude piece. But he said Goodman "essentially walked away without making any commitment."
"He was attempting to force me to put work on my walls that I did not want to put up," Bencen said.
Bob Arndorfer can be reached at (352) 374-5042 or arndorb@gvillesun.com.

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