Grace Dawson Artist or Pornographer

Grace Dawson: Artist or Pornographer?
Mountmonk College has always held very high standards for students and staff.
Mountmonk likes to consider themselves better than the “other” schools at maintaining
principles of traditional values as the alumni has done in the past. As the school nears
its alumni weekend, we must take into consideration these values, as well as changes
in the times as we decide about use of the auditorium for the weekend. Last semester
there was an art contest held for the students. All ribbon winning art is scheduled to be
displayed in the auditorium during the alumni weekend. One of our students, Grace
Dawson, is a photographer and is planning to show one of her photographs in the
auditorium over the weekend. Her photograph is of a naked woman kneeling on the
ground with a man in a suit kicking her while a naked man watches. We have
objections to the display of her art from both the Women’s Center and the Director of
Alumni Relations . They feel her art is repugnant due to its explicit sexual content and
fear that the alumni may withdraw contributions.
Grace Dawson argues in her own defense that her photograph is artwork and
should be exhibited. She entered this and several other photographs in the Student Art
Contest last semester and won a ribbon for “honorable mention.” She feels that her art
deserves to be displayed with the rest of the ribbon winners. Grace Dawson has been
unfairly singled out. She insists that she has the right to free speech under the First
Amendment and her artwork is a form of protected speech. She should not be, and
cannot be, denied the right to freedom of expression even if her expressions are
distasteful to some viewers.
Although we can immediately see that some of the alumni might be offended by
the nature of the photos, we must look beyond that to the bigger and more important
issues. Among these issues is of course her First Amendment right to freedom of
expression. In the case of Memoirs versus Massachusetts the court ruled that material
“utterly without redeeming social value” can be prosecuted. If we decide here today
that Grace Dawson’s artwork cannot be displayed, then we have also condemned her
art as completely valueless for everyone. We all know that this is not true, many
people find value in similar art. Some of the most well respected and highest priced
paintings, sculptures, and photos in the world are of nude models. In Ginzberg versus
New York, the court decided that materials distributed to children may be considered
obscene, but here at Mountmonk, we can clearly see that no children will be present for
the viewing. The court then goes on to state that the same materials distributed to
adults would not be obscene. Grace Dawson has earned the right to display her art by
winning a ribbon, taking that away from her would clearly be a flagrant injustice.
I feel we must also analyze why we should ban this photo. Are we banning it
because it represents a danger to society? Does it appeal to prurient interests? Or is
there a more simplified explanation? Perhaps we want to censor what the alumni see
in the interest of keeping their contributions coming in to the college. We can all agree
that this college operates on the generous contributions of alumni, but can we sacrifice
our integrity to be sure not to offend anybody. We must ask ourselves also if the
offensive materials are really offensive to the alumni. Secondly, we need to consider if
the photographs are genuinely offensive enough to the alumni that they will not donate
their money to the college. Mountmonk has always held traditional values; values that
the alumni of this school look to for generating leaders with high morals and strong
ethics for the future. Some people may find that these photos are demoralizing and
should not be on display here or anywhere.
Do these pictures have any socially redeeming value, or are they pornography
plain and simple? Naked photographs are known all over the world as pornography,
why should these be any different? Do they have any socially redeeming qualities?
No. Do these photographs represent art to anyone other than prurient interests? This
is the reason we must allow the display. The answer is yes, some people find that
these pictures are art and deserve to be shown the same as any other. For this reason,
and this reason alone, we must show