(Provo, UT -- 7 November 1997) In the face of growing public disapproval and negative publicity, Brigham Young University President Merrill Bateman announced today that a fifth sculpture would be withdrawn from the Rodin exhibit at the Mormon university campus.
The newly-banned sculpture, "The Thinker," is by far Rodin's most famous. BYU officials, however, seem fearless of -- or maybe that should be oblivious to -- the negative publicity that might result from this latest move in their crusade against the famous artist. "We can not back down from our principles," said Bateman on Wednesday, in justificaiton of the ban.
"'The Thinker' does not represent the sort of activity that we believe is appropriate for the BYU setting," said BYU official Alan Wilkins. In contrasting "The Thinker" to Rodin's sculpture "The Kiss," which was withdrawn earlier this week, Wilkins said, "Nudity is not the issue here. Admitedly, nudity has its place in private and personal surroundings. But" he continued, "the administration has decided that this sculpture is inappropriate under any and all circumstances."
Before being admitted to the university, all BYU students sign a statement commiting them to abide by university and church policy. Although the Honor Code statement does not specifically prohibit thinking or similar activities, most students, staff, faculty and adminstration believe that is what is meant.
"Any student who signed the Honor Code should know: when the president speaks, the discussion is over," wrote one student, John Wiener, in a letter to the university newspaper on Monday.
The university administration has also cited its responsibility to protect the many school children who are scheduled to attend the art exhibit. "I am infinitely more concerned that my children finish school with their morals intact, than that they learn how to think," said Wayne Layton, father of eight.
Even with the new ban, many parents, including Layton, have expressed doubts about allowing their children to attend the exhibit along with their school classes. "This so-called Art -- how is it any different from a Las Vegas peep show, that's what I'd like to know," said parent organizer Cynthia Rosyska. "It's just not the sort of thing I want my children exposed to. Utah valley is ripe for pornography, and I don't think we need to encourage it."
If there continue to be protests from parents and students concerned about the contents of the exhibit, the university administration may pull further pieces from the show. "It is entirely possible," said Museum Director Campbell Gray, "that well before the end of the show's run, all of the sculptures may have been withdrawn for one reason or another."
"But," Gray continued optimistically, "once we reach that point, things should go smoothly from then on. We don't expect there to be any more objections to the contents of the exhibit if there are no contents left."
Even if there are no sculptures left to see, said Gray, pre-paid admission tickets will still be honored, "and museum attendees can enjoy the spacious exhibit hall, free from worry that they will be exposed to anything that might impose on their moral sensibilities. In that way, we hope that the exhibit will truly be an uplifting experience for everybody."
Although the exhibit catalogue was pulled from circulation last week because it depicted the now-banned sculptures, special souvenir postcards are now being printed. On the back, the postcards say "RODIN -- BYU 1997." The faces of the postcards are blank.
As of this morning, "The Thinker" sits in its crate, ready for shipment back to its home institution. "The University is part of the Church," said BYU Academic Vice President Wayne Ballard. "It [The Thinker] may be a famous sculpture, but we wouldn't want to give the impression that the Church supports that sort of thing."
RODIN GETS PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
Situation remains uncertain
(Salt Lake City, UT -- 31 Oct. 1997) Following a storm of controversy, three Rodin sculptures which were banned earlier this week from the Brigham Young University Museum of Art will be restored to the exhibit.
Both BYU President Merrill Bateman and Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinkley have declared that the four nude sculptures are to be reinstated; the exact conditions of their reinstatement, however, remains uncertain.
At an early morning press conference from the Mormon-owned BYU campus in Provo, Utah, President Bateman announced that, contrary to rumor, he was not going to add Rodin or his sculptures to his "Presidential Decree." The Decree, which was issued just last month, lists a dozen activities, things, and persons banned from the BYU campus.
"On the contrary," Bateman proudly declared, "I am happy to announce that the Rodin sculptures will be exhibited in the BYU Museum of Art, as originally scheduled, with only some minor modifications to make them more appropriate to the BYU and Utah audience."
The modifications are as follows:
The erotic nude sculpture entitled "The Kiss" is to receive an additional subtitle, "Tribute to Joseph and Eliza."
The sculpture of John the Baptist, which had earlier been excluded on the grounds that it does not adequately depict the character of a prophet, will become part of a multi-media "sculptural installation." The nude figure will be dressed in a dark suit and tie, and placed in front of a teleprompter, which will broadcast a continual text of General Conference addresses. Behind the sculpture, colored lights playing against a white screen will simulate the lights shown on the Tabernacle ceiling behind the famous choir and organ during their interlude performances.
"In this configuration, patrons to the exhibit can either look at the sculpture from the front, or from the opposite direction, they can read the teleprompter. We believe this to be a positive and edifying addition to the aesthetic experience," Bateman noted.
Finally, the sculpture "The Prodigal Son" will become part of a sound and light action diorama. At frequent intervals, the image of a young man's face will be projected onto the face of the sculpture. The projection moves in live action as the young man speaks, and museum patrons will hear his calm voice say from loudspeakers "I did not run away from home because I am gay and my parents refused to accept me. That is not the reason. I swear, that is not the reason."
President Bateman's decree, however, may be overridden by another decree issued this morning from the Office of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This official announcement, written by the staff of President of the Church Gordon Hinkley, declares that "inasmuch as gender is eternal, we believe there is no reason to hide the genderal members. In particular, we believe that evidence of one's manhood is no cause for shame, and can be displayed with pride."
"However," the decree continues, "such displays of manhood should not become the subject of undue and inordinate attention on the part of other men. This subverts the natural law of the opposing sexes."
To prevent this "undue attention," video cameras will be placed discretely throughout the exhibit, and staff will monitor male museum patrons. Those who spend too long admiring one of the nude male figures will be quietly asked by museum ushers to move along.
It is as yet unclear whether women will also be discouraged from too-diligent study of the male or female nudes.
Since the declarations by Bateman and Hinckley were apparently issued independently, BYU museum director Campbell Gray is now seeking a way to fulfill both directives.
The Church Public Relations Office has come forward as mediator, and suggested the following compromise:
"The Kiss" will be restored to the exhibit and retitled "Tribute to Joseph and Eliza." Its new subtitle will read "Priesthood Power: Always on Top."
"John the Baptist" will appear, as directed by Bateman, with the teleprompter to indicate his prophetic calling. But the figure will be also restored to his nude state, in order to make clear that he was a bearer of the priesthood.
"The Prodigal Son" will be exhibited as directed by Bateman, with the addition that free copies of the "Proclamation on the Family" will be distributed from a nearby kiosk. Every Mormon exhibit attendee will receive a free copy of the Proclamation, and every non-Mormon exhibit attendee will receive two free copies.
Informed of this possible resolution of his exhibit headache, Campbell Gray stated, "Compromise is the handmaiden of diplomacy. And it would not be diplomatic for me to comment further."
In follow-up remarks to the press this afternoon, President Bateman said, "I want to make perfectly clear that this action does not come as a result of the distorted and negative reports which BYU has been subjected to by the hostile and secular media establishment. This is not a capitulation. This is rather, a *re*capitulation of the essential and unique mission of the university."
"Furthermore," Bateman concluded, "this is yet more evidence that the university administration acts on its own initiative, and is not directed from higher Church authorities in any inappropriate ways. After this, let no one doubt that there is a full and just measure of academic freedom at BYU." [an error occurred while processing this directive]