These were provided by a listener. This display is the work of a UWGB adjunct art professor, which were displayed on campus. Also included is the official statement from UWGB. We'll discuss this after 10 on the show this morning.
Dear Mr. Bader,
On behalf of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, in my position as director of communication, I am sharing basic information I have been able to gather this week about the exhibit that was displayed for five days last month, and about the 407 Gallery space in question.
I hope this background is helpful. As I mentioned in our brief phone conversation a few minutes ago, the University welcomes discussion of the larger issues, and we strongly support your right to criticize the art and to express your opinion. Likewise, though, we strongly support freedom of expression by our students, faculty and others. We would hope you agree.
With regard to the 407 Gallery, it has not been the practice here for administrators to pre-approve or censor exhibits in this experimental student-managed space. Nor should it be in a public university. That’s simply the nature of a university and a university art program, where free expression is encouraged and it is not at all unusual for course content or gallery exhibits, on occasion, to strike some observers as provocative.
Incidentally, I only saw the full series of images myself for the first time yesterday, posted by the artist at his own personal website, http://christophercannonart.com/home.html . I’ll leave the decision to you as to whether to broadcast that link to the public, and therefore direct traffic and publicity to his site, or to display the jpgs on your own site, should you choose.
As for background on this particular exhibit and the 407 Gallery:
• I can confirm that during the week of Jan. 25 through 29, an exhibit by Green Bay-based artist Christopher Cannon was displayed in the student-managed 407 Gallery. Cannon is also a part-time adjunct instructor with UW-Green Bay. He is contracted to teach occasional courses as enrollment demands require, and is teaching two sections of drawing this semester. He also teaches art courses at St. Norbert College.
• The Cannon exhibit consisted of a series of 25 silk-screen prints on paper, each measuring approximately 22-by-30 inches. Each of the prints manipulated in some way the face portrayed in the widely sold painting titled “The Head of Christ” by 20th century American painter Warner Sallman. The spectrum of variations ranged from prints that closely mimicked Sallman’s iconic original, to prints that, clearly, did not. There was no artist’s statement posted inside the gallery.
• To be absolutely clear, this space is not the primary public gallery at UW-Green Bay. The much-larger and more accessible Lawton Gallery, located in Theatre Hall, is managed by a faculty member who serves as the curator of art. (The Lawton Gallery rents touring shows and also mounts its own exhibits, typically spotlighting faculty and top student artists.) The 407 Gallery is located on the top floor of the Studio Arts Building. It is primarily a place for student exhibitions; they sign up to reserve the space for the week of their choice on a first-come, first-served basis. Coordinating use of the room is a student from the Advanced Gallery and Museum Studies course. Students get a chance to see what their peers are up to; the art faculty describes it as an "experimental" space. The artists themselves are responsible for set-up and take-down. Beyond allowing use of this designated room, the institution does not subsidize, reimburse or contract with the artists volunteering to exhibit.
• In recent years, the 407 Gallery on several occasions has featured the work of adjunct (part-time) faculty members or outside artists. It is my understanding that, in this instance, Cannon stepped in to fill the space after a late cancellation by a University student.
• I can’t even venture a guess as to how many people might have seen the Cannon exhibit. Facilities staff unlocks the door in the morning and locks it at night; there is no attendant present. The fourth floor of Studio Arts is not a high-traffic destination, with only faculty/staff offices and a few classrooms. The main, working art studios themselves are located three floors below, in a different wing of the facility.
• As of this writing, the University has received no written inquiries regarding the Cannon exhibit. I checked with the Chancellor’s Office, the art program, the curator of art… and all tell me they have not heard from anyone on campus or from the community. (I asked specifically about formal contacts in writing, made to these specific offices or individuals, for which we might have a record. As for informal or spoken inquiries, it’s my belief that, here too, yours is the first.) Additionally, as is customary at most art galleries, including the institution’s Lawton Gallery and the 407 in Studio Arts, a guestbook or notebook was available for entries during the week of the Cannon exhibit. A faculty member who reviewed the entries told me the show elicited the usual level of anonymous critiques, (maybe a couple more entries than usual, but still only 15 or 20) with a mixed viewer response to the art. Several wrote that they found the work offensive.
So, those are some facts, as I know them, about the 407 Gallery and Christopher Cannon’s exhibit. Frankly, I was unaware of this exhibit until earlier this week, nearly a month after it was displayed. That’s not unusual. While my office has primary responsibility for publicizing the University’s major public exhibits in the Lawton Gallery, we don’t track Gallery 407 content. If there is any promotion at all, it’s my impression the artists themselves typically tack or tape up homemade or handwritten flyers, mostly in the Studio Arts Building where the art and visual design programs are headquartered.
In closing, I should make clear that I am conveying background here for the institution, proper, and its administrative leadership. Individual faculty members, artists and students, of course, speak for themselves. We have 6,500 students and 600 employees and I am sure there will be some among your interested listeners and active participants if you choose to discuss this topic on-air.
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay