Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kennebunk library cancels, reinstates art show

Published in the Portland Phoenix

An art show that has been in the works for more than two years was abruptly canceled last week by the Kennebunk Free Library — before the art even was on the walls — and then, almost as abruptly, un-canceled in time to be installed for its opening reception on Tuesday.

The exhibit, “Portraits in a Time of War” by Kennebunk artist Gerald “Bud” Swenson, is a series of stylized faces made from cloth pieces cut out of American flags. According to Swenson, the library agreed to display his work two years ago. Two months ago, he reports, he showed library trustees some of the portraits and “told them it might be controversial” because of his use of flag fabric.

“They approved the show. They sent out a press release, and then the day before the show they called and said it was canceled,” he says, adding that he was told the library had received a single complaint, about his cutting up American flags.

That was on Halloween; he was scheduled to hang the art November 1, and open the show to the public November 2. (The artist’s reception was to be on Election Day.) Swenson did not hang the art as scheduled, but did pass the word about the cancellation among the state’s arts community. That resulted in the library receiving several letters and phone calls in support of Swenson’s art. And on November 2, the library trustees met and decided the show would indeed go on; Swenson hung the work Monday, and the reception was happening as scheduled at press time.

Library director Janet Cate says the show’s month-long run will now be augmented by two yet-to-be-scheduled public forums, where anyone can come and discuss the works, the means by which they were created, or anything else relating to the show.

I’m very pleased,” says Swenson. “Censorship is stopped cold.”

“Portraits in a Time of War” | works by Gerald “Bud” Swenson | through Nov 29 | at the Kennebunk Free Library, 112 Main St, Kennebunk | 207.985.2173

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Gerald “Bud” Swenson: