Name: Carroll, Mary Cate Paintings

Date:  1975 - 1984

Location:  North America



Artist: Mary Cate Carroll

Confronting Bodies: Mary Washington College and its Art Department

Date of Action: October 1983

Specific Location: Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA

Description of Artwork:  The painting, American Liberty Upside Down... this is a work depicting an American family scene -- a man and a woman sitting on a couch, and a child on the mother's lap. But the child is depicted only in red dotted outline. In the middle of the child I built an actual door which the view can open if you open the door you will see the actual remains preserved in formaldehyude of a saline abortion-- a small greenish male fetus/child curled up head down in a real jar. The artwork was censored by the art department of Mary Washington College and removed from an already hung show to which I was invited before the actual opening.

Description of Incident:  I was invited by my Alma Mater to participate in an art show of six alumnae of Mary Washington College. I was told in writing to bring whatever I wanted to show up to six pieces. I brought a series of paintings which I call the American Liberty Series. Two days after I hung the show and before the opening the college called and said there was a problem with two of the paintings and that they had debated whether to remove both and finally decided that the one "American Liberty Upside Down" would have to be removed and I was to come forwith and remove it from the campus. I challenged them on this but they insisted. I called the school and local newspaper. The case escalated into a little national brouhaha when writer/activist, Nat Hentoff, championed my cause in articles in the Village Voice, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. A detailed description of my case can be found in Nat Hentoff's 1993 book, "Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee". It should be noted that the censorship of this artwork was not covered by any Art Periodical or any Art Critic because I believe the Art world while decrying censorship regularly censors the work of what they deem the politically incorrect. It was after all the Art Department that did the initial censorship.

Results of Incident:  Two year court battle. I sued college. We settled out of court. The college showed the piece two years later. I became persona non grata in the "art world."

Source: My own experience. Mary Cate Carroll (Finksburg, MD)

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