Not Safe For Park: “Sexting” Statue Arouses Passions

Have you ever wanted to see the Statue of Liberty naked? Uh, me neither (*cough), but Chinese artist Yu Chang has sort of allowed us to see what that might look like. His statue “Accept or Reject,” depicting a headless woman snapping a self-photo with her breasts exposed, is allegedly a tribute to “sexting.” And now, it’s also the subject of a grand jury investigation over obscenity.
Perhaps the controversial statue wouldn’t have been an issue if it were displayed in an art museum or even some fashion-forward metropolitan area surrounded by coffee bars and trendy gastropubs, but no. It’s current home is the Overland Park arboretum in Kansas. The same Kansas where they recently overturned the state’s school curriculum standards five times while debating creationism versus evolution. The same Kansas that is the homebase for the Westboro Baptist Church, the group that protests at soldier’s funerals. I’ve been there, it’s a pretty conservative place.

While Chang feels that his statue expresses “the incomplete identity in one’s digital self,” Joanne Hughes, a mother who initiated the complaint, feels it simply presents obscenity to minors. She then paired with the American Family Association on a signature-gathering campaign to have the statue removed under obscenity grounds. In order to be considered “obscene” the statue must meet three conditions: 1. It must lack serious political, artistic, literary, or scientific merit. 2. It must depict, in a patently offensive way, sexual misconduct as defined by the applicable state law. 3. The average person, “applying contemporary community standards” must find that the work appeals to a purely prurient interest. With all three steps combined, this is a litmus test not easy to pass.

The American Family Association, a religious organization focused on strengthening the moral foundations of American culture extended its influence to gather 4700 signatures on the petition, enough to warrant the Grand Jury investigation. If the Grand Jury determines the statue is indeed obscenity, it would find not the artist guilty, but rather the city of Overland Park. Displaying obscenity to minors is currently a misdemeanor. If found guilty, there is no word yet on whether the city would have to pick up litter by the highway.

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