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Dudley's NC-17 Art Show

* An artist who claims he was censored is just crying wolf.

By Stephen E. Frank

Cameron Wolf says his artwork is designed as "an exploration the AIDS crisis has changed the way we see the world." After viewing some of Wolf's eerie, occasionally obscene photographs on display in Dudley House yesterday, this much seems clear to me: Wolf has a bizarre way of communicating the tragedy of AIDS.

Wolf attracted campus-wide attention earlier this week, when he made a big fuss about allegedly being "censored" by Dudley House Master Daniel Fisher. The artist, who is a student at the School of Public Health, charged House officials with homophobia and discrimination. He told The Crimson he resented having Fisher and Dudley House Artist-in-Residence Ivonne A-Baki choose which of his photographs could be displayed in a two-week exhibit at the House.

Coming from an artist who claims to have had his work exhibited all over the country, this is a curious complaint. It is, after all, the standard practice of most art gallery directors worth their salt to select the specific works they want displayed in their galleries--and not to leave that choice up to individual artists. At Dudley House, it is A-Baki's job to organize art exhibits and choose exactly what is displayed.

Moreover, Wolf's cry of "censorship" is simply false. Fisher allowed Wolf to display any works he wanted to at a reception in the Dudley House Common Room last night. That's how I was able to see them.

What the House Master did demand, however, was that certain particularly graphic works be taken down after the reception, and that these works--a mere fraction of the exhibit--not be displayed with the rest for the next two weeks in the House Mezzanine area.

Why was Fisher concerned? For starters, tomorrow morning the Dudley House Common Room--where last night's reception was held--will be the site of a brunch for graduate students with children. Roughly 100 parents and their young kids are expected to attend. The tykes will be entertained by Silly Sally the Clown.

Master Fisher wanted to spare these grade schoolers the sight of works like Wolf's "Untitled #7," a photograph of two nude men, one holding the other's not-quite-covered genitals. He thought "Untitled #4"--which depicts a naked woman arched backwards, her crotch thrust toward the camera lens--might no; be the most appropriate backdrop for Silly Sally the Clown. He had problems with Wolf's version of Michelangelo's "Pieta": two nude men aping the famous pose of the Virgin Mary holding the dead Jesus.

In short, the Master rightly decided that visitors to Dudley House should not be greeted with photographs that are arguably pornographic.

In any case, the issue of censorship is a moot point. To be censored implies that one's rights to free expression are being violated. Cameron Wolf, however, has no inalienable right to use Dudley House's walls to display his work. That's why he had to ask for permission to use the space. And that's why his right to free expression is not relevant here.

That said, having seen Wolf's photographs. I am confused by their message. It's hard for me to see how a photo of one man holding another's genitals represents a "changed" way of seeing the world in light of the AIDS crisis. Certainly, the exhibit's homoerotic content does little to promote safe sex.

At least I'm not the only one who's bewildered by Wolf's work. Phillip McKee, co-chair of the Lesbian. Bisexual and Gay Graduate Students association, which sponsored the show, told me after viewing the exhibit. "I didn't quite get the gist of it."

Stephen E. Frank's column appears on alternate Fridays.

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