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August 2000

Delphi Questions: Nude artwork

Editor's Note: Questions about the Mesa Lab artwork exhibits have arisen three times in the past: 1976 (one question) and 1992 (two questions). Both the current questioner and the respondent received copies of these Delphi Q&A.

Members of the NCAR Art Jury

Internal: Dianne Bernier (GST), Bob Harriss (ESIG), Regina Hogan (F&A), Doug Nychka (CGD), Bonnie Slagel (COMET)

External: Carlye Calvin, McArthur Johnson, Ernest Porps, Melinda Myrow

Question #454 (received 23 June):

The inclusion of a painting of a nude woman in the current exhibit in Gallery I has triggered reactions from a variety of people in my division, which fall into two categories:

(1) Portraits of nude women encourage the view of a woman as a sexual object rather than as an equal and a scientist.

(2) Given the educational role NCAR plays, with frequent visits by school-age children, the display of nudity in artwork is inappropriate.

A previous Delphi question was similar to (1); in response it was stated that the display was considered to meet the legal standard. Is meeting legal standards enough? Or should this issue be addressed with consideration to the feelings of the (minority of) scientists who are women? Has the issue of children/the public and nudity in artwork ever been addressed?

Response (10 July):

Your questions and the issues they raise about what is appropriate to include in public art exhibits, including those at NCAR, are sensitive and complicated and ones upon which reasonable people may disagree. As with all exhibits, a sample of the art work was reviewed in the original judging. Upon the mounting of the full display, the NCAR Art Committee considered the nude torso of a woman, which was only one of many paintings in the exhibit, to be well within the community standards of art suitable for viewing by people of all ages and hence appropriate for display at NCAR. The Art Committee is made up of your peers, and they make every attempt to select artwork that is both interesting and diversified in order to give staff and visitors a variety of exhibits to enjoy. Of course, meeting the legal standard is important, but equally so, the committee is extremely sensitive to the feelings of not only women scientists but also all staff members regardless of race, gender, or other factors.

Similar issues have been raised in previous Delphi questions. As stated in an earlier response (published in Staff Notes Monthly in 1992), "Judgments about the offensiveness of artwork and other material are highly personal and individual. These personal judgments are the products of each of our individual value systems and our religious and moral beliefs. As can be seen by observing attempts to establish community obscenity standards, it is impossible to define a single standard that will satisfy all views."

The members of the NCAR Art Committee strive to be fair and considerate to everyone in our diverse work environment. We encourage staff to share opinions and differences with the committee. For those who would like to become more involved in the selection process, we encourage you to submit your names (e-mail razo@ucar.edu) to serve on the committee.

—Nita Razo, coordinator
NCAR Art Exhibit Program

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Fri Aug 11 15:01:08 MDT 2000