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Angela Strassheim
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 1, 201412:00 PM EST

Angela Strassheim 'quite shocked' by Clay Yarborough labeling her MOCA photo 'pornographic'

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by: David Chapman

Janine Iversen made quite the commotion last week.

She’s a mother now, but wasn’t when she was a model for photographer Angela Strassheim.

At the time, Iversen was pregnant. For the piece, she was nude.

“I see an intimate moment of a nude, very pregnant woman basking in the last bit of afternoon sunlight as she waits for the birth of her child,” Strassheim said. “She is not affected by the cold of winter outside her window.”

City Council President Clay Yarborough doesn’t exactly see it the same way.

He said he saw a picture of a naked woman in a questionable position hanging on the wall in plain view of anyone, including children, in a public spot. The photo is part of the Strassheim’s larger “Focused on Family” exhibit that’s part of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville’s “Project Atrium.”

Strassheim said she’s “quite shocked” about the stir the photo has made.

Yarborough said “while we may all differ on the definition of art,” a more important question is whether anyone, especially a child, should have their rights violated by being forcibly exposed to such a piece in a government-owned building.

“As a parent, I support parental choice and the freedom of children not to see something like that before an appropriate time as determined by their parent/guardian,” Yarborough said in a statement.

He’s asked Mayor Alvin Brown to pull $233,000 allocated to the museum through the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.

Marcelle Polednik, the museum’s director, said she was “very surprised” to hear the photo referred to as “pornographic.”

“I don’t take that lightly,” she said.

Polednik also said she was disappointed to hear about the situation after Brown’s administration was asked to intervene instead of hearing from Yarborough himself. She said that feedback “good, bad or otherwise” is important for exhibits and she would have been the right person to talk to about the issue.

Chris Hand, Brown’s chief of staff, said Yarborough’s request was forwarded to the Office of General Counsel, given the possible First Amendment implications.

The Cultural Council has weighed in, saying it “stands ready to defend the artistic and curatorial choices of our cultural service grantees.” The council called Yarborough’s objection unfortunate.

Yarborough said those responses suggest unwillingness to compromise, which is “unfortunate in this situation because I believe a solution that protects the rights of children and all others is within reach.”

Since his viewpoint was made public last week, Yarborough said he’s received about an even split of support and opposition on the issue.

Strassheim said Yarborough is entitled to his values, but not to impose them on the world at-large.

“I am proud of the museum for standing by their beliefs in the freedom of expression and by me,” she said.

Others are slated to show their support en masse Wednesday.

A protest on Yarborough’s stance and rally for the museum will be held during the monthly Art Walk. According to the event’s Facebook page, also 650 people were planning to attend as of Monday morning.

Polednik will have a role in the protest and is scheduled to give remarks. She doesn’t know the content of her comments yet — she’s waiting to see how the next few days play out. She said she’d be happy to sit down with Yarborough if he contacted her.

Strassheim won’t be part of that rally or conversation because she’s not in Jacksonville.

But as for her photo of Iversen, the one that’s caused the stir?

“I think we are all better off with the insight it provides,” Strassheim said.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

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