Sally Mann (photographer)

Date: 2000

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Photography Public Art

Artist: Lexington photographer Sally Mann and various artists wanting to display their work at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Confronting Bodies: Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore; officials at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

Date of Action: 2000

Location: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia USA

Description of Artwork: The heavily attended slide-lecture Sally Mann presented at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts detailed her long career in the arts included pictures of a woman and two pubescent girls, all naked, standing on a rock and urinating. In addition, several other pictures with children in controversial positions were shown at the event.

The Incident: On May 10, 2000 Lexington photographer Sally Mann presented a slide-lecture detailing her long career in the arts at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. After receiving a letter from someone who attended the artistic lecture, Virginia's conservative republican Governor Jim Gilmore wrote a letter to interim museum director Richard B. Woodward complaining of several sexually explicit photographs shown by Mann. In the letter to Woodward the Governor wrote, "I am both shocked and dismayed that this type of exhibit occurred on state-owned property." However, Mann, a celebrated artist, saw it very differently than the Governor; she stated: "If I considered these images pornographic, I wouldn't be showing them. My perception of these images is that they are a celebration, a loving paean to a happy, 30-year-old marriage - - intimate, yes; familiar, yes; humorous, yes; but pornographic, no."

Results of Incident: As a result of Governor Gilmore's objection to Mann's show, the Governor demanded for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to form a set of guidelines to prevent "outrageous displays" at the state art museum. The VMFA has agreed to the Governor's request and has created a committee, within its board of trustees, to review performances, lectures, films and other events sponsored by the museum to "further support the Museum’s commitment to standards of excellence." The original board included Governor Gilmore’s wife, Roxane.

Source: ArtsWire archive: