A city council member in an Oregon town noted for its Shakespeare festival and its occasional dustups over public nudity plans a showing in his art gallery of nude portraits and conceptual art involving naked people.
For gallery-goers as well, clothing will be optional _ even though it's winter in Ashland, a small college town on the California border
Council member Eric Navickas is opposed to a possible ban on public nudity in the town. Nudity is legal in Ashland, except in the city center and public parks, where people are required to cover their genitals.
"We feel that the nude ban is not only an attack on freedom of expression but also an attack on the human body itself," Navickas said. "We wanted to have a show to celebrate the nude body and differentiate the nude body from anything indecent."
The ban was proposed after two men were spotted walking naked near schools. The council is to vote next month on the issue.
Navickas said he is willing to compromise and ban nudity within 200 feet of school zones. His partner, Amy Godard, said the two are interested in dialogue not controversy.
"It's not like we're trying to polarize anything," she said. "We're trying to pay homage to the nude, which is a strong tradition in the arts."
Open about a year, the gallery made news early on with an exhibit that allowed patrons to pitch paint-covered shoes at a large portrait of former President George W. Bush. The gallery owners called it a "statement of solidarity" with an Iraqi journalist arrested after throwing shoes at him.
The nudity exhibit is scheduled Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, Godard said, and patrons may participate by baring themselves.
"We'll have heaters going," she said. "I know it's at the end of January, but it will be warm in there."
Information from: The Ashland Daily Tidings, http://www.dailytidings.com
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