Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape (exhibition)
Artist: Bruce Habowski
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: USM’s Lewiston-Auburn campus, Maine
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: University of Southern Maine's President Glenn Cummings
Description of Artwork: Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape is an art exhibition hosted at the University of Southern Maine (USM) in Lewiston, Maine. The Atrium Gallery, part of the central entryway and commons area at USM, displayed 70 works of art by nearly 30 artists about Maine's industrial landscape.
At its opening on March 12, three works by Bruce Habowski, a well-regarded oil painter from Waterville, were presented. Habowski has shown his work at the Portland Museum of Art and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, among other venues.
The Incident: The University of Southern Maine (USM) removed all of Habowski's works following a complaint regarding the painter’s previous sexual offenses. Habowski was convicted of unlawful sexual contact in April 1999, found guilty in Waterville District Court in June 1999, and served six months in jail. He also has two sex-related misdemeanor convictions from around the same time, including one involving a juvenile. The show’s curator, Janice L. Moore, stated that a relative of a victim in the sex crime made the initial complaint. Consequently, the decision to remove the works was made by university officials including USM's President Glenn Cummings.
NCAC affirmed that the removal of the three paintings is a "disturbing violation of academic and curatorial freedom" and that as a public university, USM must uphold the artist's First Amendment rights. Furthermore, the organization urged USM to return the artwork to the exhibition, adopt free speech guidelines and refrain from judgements based on an artist’s personal history.
Results of Incident: USM's President responded to criticism with the statement that "leaving the artwork up could serve as a trigger for our students and staff who have been victims of child abuse and sexual assault" (Glenn Cummings, July 2018).
Censorship, or Safety? by Dan Kany, Summer 2018, Critics Corner
Industrial Landscapes — A Curator’s Experience, by Janice Moore, Summer 2018, Features and Essays