Freedom of Expression - Our First Amendment Rights

This essay has a total of 1174 words and 5 pages.

Freedom of Expression - Our First Amendment Rights are Threatened

What is art? Can it be defined in any single painting, or sculpture? Is it even something
that can be seen, or does it have to be experienced? The term "art" is so vague that it
can be applied to almost anything, really. Mostly, however, art should be that which frees
our imagination. It connects our conscious with our subconscious, putting into a visual
form what we feel and think. It allows us to explore our inner self and fill that urge to
understand our minds and our universe. Art helps us to see beyond the ordinary, to see
what is in our hearts without being blinded by reality. When an artist creates a painting,
it is not to create a picture; it is to create a feeling or mood. The purpose is to convey
an emotion, and, it is hoped, to make the viewer experience that same emotion. The
painting is really just the final result. Picasso once said "…the thing that counts, in
painting, is the intention of the artist…What counts is what one wants to do, and not what
one does… In the end what was important is the intention one had."

So, what happens when artists are judged only on their final result, with no consideration
to the purpose of their artwork? Censorship happens. That's right, every day in America,
"Land of the Free", another artist falls victim to The Censor. Everyday, despite rights
guaranteed by the constitution, people are being oppressed-by school officials,
librarians, committee chairpersons, and even by those in government positions. It's time
everyone, everywhere, stood up for Freedom of Expression, and put and end to censorship.

In September of this year, the Brooklyn Museum of Art planned an exhibit of British
artwork entitled "Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection", the
controversial art exhibit which, on it's world tour, has been shown in Germany and
England. The exhibit, as well as the majority of other artwork on display in the museum,
was to be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA is a government agency
that grants federal money to artists and organizations in an attempt to serve the public
good by "nurturing the expression of human creativity, supporting the cultivation of
community spirit, and fostering the recognition and appreciation of the excellence and
diversity of our nation's artistic accomplishments". The organization was prepared to
share part of its 98,000 dollars of appropriated funds, until several weeks before the
exhibit was to open. At that time, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, after having viewed the
exhibit, threatened to withdraw city financial support to the museum.

The Mayor labeled the exhibit "sick" and "offensive to Catholics", and made no secret that
his objections were based on his personal dislike of the contents of the show. He
criticized the work of Chris Ofili, specifically a painting called The Holy Virgin Mary,
because of its use of elephant dung. Ofili, a British artist of Nigerian descent, uses
elephant dung in many of his works as a reference to his African roots. As an observant
Catholic himself, he denies that his work is either anti-Catholic or anti-religious. He
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