Get A Room!

That's what those square administrators at an Ashland, Oregon, high school told a young artist that her paintings of "abstract genitalia" had to do: Abstract genitalia get room of their own

Ashland High School senior Colette Paré Miller will show her abstract paintings of the male and female genitalia at tonight's First Friday art walk, but they will be in a separate room and manned by a monitor to make sure children can't see them.

Saying they were not appropriate for students to view, Ashland School District officials insisted the large abstract works should be away from the public viewing area of student art at the Briscoe Art Wing in the former Briscoe Elementary School, which the district leases out to artists.

"When I painted them in class, there was as positive reaction. People thought they were beautiful," said Miller. "I don't think they are pornographic. They have all those colors. I didn't do them to scare anyone, but I did want to paint something controversial. I wanted people to be able to understand that a taboo subject can be presented in a beautiful way."

Miller said her approach to the paintings is inspired by the American artist Georgia O'Keefe and is intended to "make people freak out in a beautiful way with subject matter they're obviously not comfortable with." She didn't think small children, if they did recognize the abstract images, would "have a problem" with it — and that while such art might be a problem in other places, "I thought Ashland would be encouraging, because it's open to all art forms and creativity."

The Medford Mail-Tribune chose a most unfortunate picture of Ms. Paré Miller (see link) to illustrate their story. Then again, smiling pictures are so bourgeois!

There were three pages of comments about the article, and my favorite was the one that said something to the effect of "What's the difference between art and porn? A government grant." Or perhaps it's just flaccid vs. tumescent (the article doesn't note the state of the abstractions).

One thing's for sure: Ms. Paré Miller has learned that taboo subjects create controversy, and controversy draws attention, and in the end, it doesn't matter what people say about you as long as they are talking about you and spelling your name right.