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Adam Ousted Again : Nude Painting Called Inappropriate for Public Area of Newport Beach City Hall

Times Staff Writer

After a flurry of complaints--and a prankster’s addition of a fig leaf--a painting of a nude man was moved Friday from a public area of Newport Beach City Hall to the office of the Arts Commission.

In Rosa Williamson’s painting “Adam,” the biblical figure is shown on his knees, holding a snake. In the background a volcano erupts. “It’s right after the Fall,” the artist explained, “and Adam is raging at God.”

Williamson, who lives in Orange, said Friday that she felt “oppressed” by having her work moved to a less prominent location. Told by Sandy Blatterman, chairman of the Arts Commission, that the work was inappropriate for a public area to which people bring their children, she noted that apparently no one objected to her female nudes hanging nearby. She wondered aloud, “At what age are children allowed to know what a penis looks like?”

Blatterman said Monday that Williamson’s paintings and work by two other artists had been hung temporarily in the City Hall Gallery on Wednesday by another commissioner while she was on vacation, and that the other artists’ paintings also have been rearranged. Some are now in city offices, including those occupied by the assistant to the city manager and the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission.

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"('Adam’) was hanging in a prominent spot where everybody pays their water bill,” Blatterman said, adding that the painting seemed likely to be “an ongoing problem, calling attention to something.”

She said she regarded the fig leaf as a “humorous” addition, however, noting that it had been attached to the Plexiglas covering the painting and did not damage the work itself. It has been removed.

Blatterman said another reason the paintings were moved is that they had been hanging on rods rather than being securely fastened to the wall and might have been easily dislodged in an earthquake, such as the one that hit Newport Beach on Friday.

In any case, she said, a sign now invites visitors to look at art throughout City Hall, including the Arts Commission office.

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Williamson said Monday that she still considers the matter a case of censorship. When she was told she could show in the gallery--in City Hall’s reception area and the hallways leading to city offices--she said she had “no idea that this work would be hung in back offices.”

Williamson said she is considering removing her paintings from City Hall, pending advice from the American Civil Liberties Union. She outlined her complaint Monday in a letter to the ACLU.

Last week, complaints by patrons caused Bistango restaurant in Irvine to remove two paintings by Frank Dixon, one of which contained a nude “portrait” of Nancy Reagan wearing an open fur coat.


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