Region: North America
Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation
Artist: Ed Pepe
Confronting Bodies: Gallery Director Johanna Darrow of the Helen Day Art Center
Dates of Action: June 1998
Location: Helen Day Art Center, Stowe, Vermont.
Description of Artwork: Three images of superimposed professional texts on gay male erotica to form statements about sexual identity. The work was part of the exhibit Transformations of Text: Visual Art and the Written Word.
The Incident: Director Johanna Darrow expressed concern to the board of directors that the piece entitled But would be considered pornographic and inconsistent with Stowe’s community standards. Darrow then asked curator Peter Gallo to replace the series with any other work by Pepe.
Results of Incident: Gallo did not comply, seeking assurance from the gallery’s Visual Arts Committee that But would be included in the show. After receiving letters supporting Pepe and Gallo from the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression and the National Coalition Against Censorship, the gallery board voted to include the But series. Gallo did compromise on certain points. He agreed to post notices by Pepe’s work advising viewers that they should determine for themselves whether the series was appropriate for children. Additionally, Gallo agreed to move two pieces by Jenny Holzer from the lobby into the gallery. The show ran from June 20 through August. During that time, Darrow suggested that the board draft a set of guidelines for the center to use in selecting future works of art. The board rejected her proposal, saying that such guidelines were not necessary.