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Art exhibit sparks controversy at LBCC
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Art exhibit sparks controversy at LBCC

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A collection of sexually explicit works by Eugene artist Andrew Douglas Campbell on display at a gallery at Linn-Benton Community College's Albany campus has angered some residents, while others are embracing it as free expression.

Campbell has 10 works in the show, which runs though Nov. 30. Seven of the works are abstract pieces made from fabric, but three, which are part of a series called "... And Then What Could Happen Bent to What Will Happen ... ," depict men performing sex acts.

The images, which are essentially loose line drawings, are created using thread pressed between clear Plexiglas. Albany resident Tom Bell learned of the images when one of his Selmet employees, on campus for a training session, shared photos of the show with him.

"He said, 'You'll never believe what's up at LB," said Bell. 

Bell said he was outraged when he saw the pictures.

"That's totally out of line," he said. "They have no business displaying those pictures."

LBCC student art curator Sin Melendez sat on the jury that selected the artwork for the show. She said the college decided to display the works in the name of free expression. She agreed the images are graphic and understands why some may find them offensive.

"The images are glaring and staring you in the face, but that's a good thing," she said.

In a written statement, LBCC President Greg Hamann said, “One of the challenging aspects about free expression is it sometimes creates discomfort, anger, frustration and offense."

Hamann added the show presents a valuable learning opportunity, in that it allows people who believe in different things to practice how to productively interact.

"Not so they can change one another, but so they might understand one another a little better,” he wrote.

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Bell believes Hamann went too far in allowing the artwork.

"Here we are complaining about school names like Rebels and Warriors, and then we see this?" he said. "It's just ridiculous."

Bell thinks Hamann should be disciplined for his decision.

"It's no different than seeing it on the street," Bell said. "In fact, I think they could be prosecuted for what they did."

Albany Police Detective Travis Giboney said the display does not break any laws because none of the images are offered for sale.

LBCC student Aislin Goldrick thinks the display is nothing more than art.

"Yes, it is sexual, but it is artistic," she said. "I can see how it would offend people."

Although he was offended, Bell agrees with Goldrick about the art's quality.

"The guy looks like he's a good artist," he said.

Addressing the split opinions about the show, Hamann wrote in his statement that the dialogue is important.

“It’s difficult to satisfy everyone," he wrote. "But it’s encouraging that this has triggered conversations and a plan to balance different perspectives while maintaining the opportunity for the free expression of the artist."

A sign on the door to the exhibit warns viewers of the explicit content. Campbell did not immediately respond to a request for an interview. He will hold a reception for his show on Oct. 19, from 4 to 5 p.m. The show is on display in the North Santiam Galleries at LBCC, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW in Albany

Contact reporter Neil Zawicki at 541-812-6099 or neil.zawicki@lee.net

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