Michigan artist Edward Stross thought that he was painting a classic when he used exteriro wall of his studio as the backdrop for Michelangelo’s “Creation of Man.” The problem was not Adam, but (once again) Eve — or at least her exposed breast. In a legal case with biblical dimensions, it appears that both Adam and Edward were undone by Eve until a Michigan appellate court ruled that the city of Roseville could not force a cover-up.
Stross was contesting his citation for violating a zoning variance granted by the city, when he painted the picture with the word “Love” on his building. The city cited the size of the lettering to punish him when most understood the problem to be the exposed breast.
The court rejected the notion that the size of the display was a legitimate city concern: “it does not appear the word ‘Love’ on the mural would district motorists or distract from the aesthetic value of the neighborhood.”
A dissent notes that this should be treated as a simple matter of unprotected commercial speech.
Now, Stross must decide what to do with the mural. He painted over the breast, which may now be uncovered. The word LOVE remains unchanged.
The case is also discussed on How Appealing.
Breasts seem to remain a major matter for government officials. There is the Janet Jackson matter with the FCC. There is also its swift action to deal with a breast and buttocks sighting on a commercial in the Superbowl. The FCC rule is:
In the latter case involving an ad for NYPD Blue, the FCC described the offending objects and held forth on the status of the buttocks in American decency:
[A] woman wearing a robe is shown entering a bathroom, closing the door, and then briefly looking at herself in a mirror hanging above a sink. The camera then shows her crossing the room, turning on the shower, and returning to the mirror. With her back to the camera, she removes her robe, thereby revealing the side of one of her breasts and a full view of her back. The camera shot includes a full view of her buttocks and her upper legs as she leans across the sink to hang up her robe. The camera then tracks her, in profile, as she walks from the mirror back toward the shower. Only a small portion of the side of one of her breasts is visible. Her pubic area is not visible, but her buttocks are visible from the side.
The scene shifts to a shot of a young boy lying in bed, kicking back his bed covers, getting up, and then walking toward the bathroom. The camera cuts back to the woman, who is now shown standing naked in front of the shower, her back to the camera. The frame consists initially of a full shot of her naked from the back, from the top of her head to her waist; the camera then pans down to a shot of her buttocks, lingers for a moment, and then pans up her back. The camera then shifts back to a shot of the boy opening the bathroom door. As he opens the door, the woman, who is now standing in front of the mirror with her back to the door, gasps, quickly turns to face the boy, and freezes momentarily. The camera initially focuses on the woman’s face but then cuts to a shot taken from behind and through her legs, which serve to frame the boy’s face as he looks at her with a somewhat startled expression. The camera then jumps to a front view of the woman’s upper torso; a full view of her breasts is obscured, however, by a silhouette of the boy’s head and ears. After the boy backs out of the bathroom and shuts the door, the camera shows the woman facing the door, with one arm and hand covering her breasts and the other hand covering her pubic area. The scene ends with the boy’s voice, heard through the closed door, saying “sorry,” and the woman while looking embarrassed, responds, “It’s okay. No problem.”
This sighting was sufficient to trigger review since the FCC concluded “we find that the programming at issue is within the scope of our indecency definition because it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs – specifically an adult woman’s buttocks.” The FCC specifically found that the buttocks must be dealt with as a “sexual organ.”
For an article on the ruling, click here