Monday, January 11, 2016

The Little Sketch that no one Loves.

I have 7 large format prints on display at the Orlando Public Library downtown (101 E Central Blvd Orlando FL). The show was hung on New Year's Eve and will be on display through February. The prints are on the ground floor just past the book checkout counters to the right. Hanging the work was an adventure in itself.

I originally threw 8 prints into the back seat of my car and secured them with the seat belt and a bungee chord. I was told that a parking spot was reserved for me behind the library in the loading dock area. Unfortunately all those spaces were full, so I parked in the loading dock itself. The entry to the mail room was through those large plastic strips you might find in a meat locker. I tried to keep the strips from slapping the frames. Calls had to be made before I could enter the library through two locked doors. I was offered help bringing the framed pieces inside, two at a time. With the help, we only had to make two trips to my car. Once the pieces were inside I was told I would have to move my car. There was metered parking nearby, but instead I drove about half a mile away to get some free suburban parking.

On the long hike back to the library I started thinking about one of the prints. The sketch in question had been done at the opening of Morgan Wilson's first one woman show at Falcon Bar and Gallery. Her work in the show titled The Holy and Obscene, was sensual, edgy and surreal. She has an amazing ability to capture the female form while making you think about America's prudish views about sexuality.  The fact that I documented her opening made me a bit deviant by association.

The same print had hung in the Winter Park Chambers for several months along with about 25 other framed origin sketches. When that show came down, I was told that The Holy and Obscene piece had been taken down half a through the run of the show because a commissioner noticed the F-Bomb written on a woman's tiara. I decided that I might have to open the frame and cut a Post-it note and cover the tiara.  Jessica Earley is an artist who also works at the library, and I figured she might be willing to help with the edit. As luck would have it, there was a Post-it in my pocket.

When I finally got back to the library, the piece I had been debating about was turned to the wall. I walked up behind two staff members who where discussing the piece. They didn't even mention the F-Bomb. What they had noticed was a male phallus. I didn't even remember drawing a phallus. I imagined the infamous hidden tower in Disney's Little Mermaid poster. I took a second look, and sure enough, there it was, flaccid, small and Morgan was shooting a cell phone photo of it.

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he painted the monumental figures naked. After his death, an unknown artist was hired to paint thin fabric over the exposed men. In one fresco next to the alter, Michelangelo depicted Saint Peter willingly offered himself as a martyr. He was nude as both heroes and the humble were depicted, because he was naked before God. The frescoes were renovated over a 20 year period and in 1994 the Chapel was re-opened. The restorers left the flimsy fabric censorship in place opening an ongoing debate in the art community.

Now I'm wondering if I should have edited Morgan's work as it was depicted in my sketch. I drew a phallus without a second thought and yet it means that the sketch can never be exhibited publicly in Orlando. As an artist I have sketched hundreds of different nude models in figure drawing classes over the years. The naked human form is something I celebrate. I do, however understand and respect the Library's policy. For that reason, I decided not to start placing Post-it notes all over the sketch. Instead, I quietly removed the forbidden art from public view.

Across from the men's room, Martha Merritt was exhibiting mirrors framed with hundreds of shells. She showed me one framed aquatic skeleton that resembled a creature from outer space. Hidden within the structure she pointed out the shape of a crucifixion cross. She went on to explain that sand dollars have religious significance because they have 5 teeth that resemble holy doves.  I found it fascinating that there could be so much hidden religious significance in shells.  The day was a lesson in the Holy and Obscene. I still absolutely love Morgan's paintings. She pokes fun at a society that celebrates its guns but hides sensuality. If you happen to stop by the library be sure to check out the shells for a taste of the holy, and then see my prints if you dare. You might want to bring along some Post-it notes just in case.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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