Originally published on Advocate.com October 25 2003 12:00 AM ET
An art professor's photographs of male dolls holding hands and embracing have prompted officials at Alabama's Shelton State Community College to remove his exhibit from its gallery. John Trobaugh's photographs--a series of 10 large pictures of Ken and G.I. Joe dolls--were installed in the college's photography gallery on October 2. Shortly thereafter, Trobaugh was told by school officials that the exhibit was getting a negative reaction, and he was asked to remove it. When he refused, the administration pulled the pictures on October 8. "They took them down because they read a homosexual meaning into it," Trobaugh said.
Shelton State president Rick Rogers issued a statement on Wednesday saying the exhibit was taken down because it coincided with the opening of the play Arsenic and Old Lace, which he described as "a family comedy" that should not be juxtaposed with "controversial" photographs. He offered to find space for the exhibit within the school's Fine Arts Center that would not be easily accessible for children. Trobaugh, who received a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alabama last spring and became an adjunct art professor at Shelton State in August, rejected the president's offer. He told The Tuscaloosa News, which reported Thursday on the exhibit's removal, that he still objects to the administration's actions and feels it will make students afraid to do anything that might be viewed as controversial.
Trobaugh said he considers the 30- by 40-inch photos of male dolls to be ambiguous. He said he followed standard procedure for putting on an exhibit, showing the slides of his work to Krist Lien, head of the art department, and Linda Grote, associated dean. "We put the photographs up, and then the administration must have gotten some complaints about it and decided that it was inappropriate for Shelton State," Lien said. "I was also told that Shelton is a totally different group of students and that in being a community college, we have different criteria than a gallery or a museum," Lien said. Trobaugh showed many of the same photographs in his thesis exhibition at the University of Alabama in April and May.