Artist pulls work, accuses state museum of censorship

Friday, February 13, 1998

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – An artist has withdrawn from a fine arts exhibit at the State Museum, charging the exhibit’s organizers with censorship.

Kim Waale, 38, of Syracuse, withdrew from the 1998 New York State Biennial fine arts exhibition last Saturday after museum officials asked her to alter what they called explicit images in her work.

Waale’s sculpture, entitled “A Good Look: The Adolescent Bedroom Project,” contains nine 7-by-4-inch plastic resin twin beds, each in a separate glass case. In the mattress portion of each bed is a sculptural image of a body part. The two images the museum wanted removed are of male and female genitalia, each with fingers touching them.

Museum director Louis Levine called the exhibit “too sexually explicit” and “inappropriate for a family museum such as ours.”

“We have an implied contract with our visitors that children can walk through the museum and parents will not be offended by what they see,” Levine said.

The museum is publicly funded and part of the state Education Department.

Michael Schamming, the museum’s head of exhibitions, asked Waale to remove the two pieces and let the other seven stand. Waale said she would agree only if the museum made it known in some way that they had been removed, such as by leaving a open space where they would have stood, or covering them, as well is posting a sign explaining that sections had been removed and why.

“I couldn’t let them make it appear visually whole,” Waale said. “If the museum wanted to censor a portion of my work, they would have to publicly explain the action they took.”

Waale called that action politically motivated.

“I think the real audience they’re interested in is their political audience,” she said.

Levine denied the charges, saying the museum is not in favor of censorship, but that the exhibit is inappropriate for the venue.