BOULDER, Colo. An art exhibit of male sex organs stolen from the Boulder Public Library was recovered yesterday, but city officials haven’t decided whether to put them back on display.
Many patrons still are peeved over the library’s refusal to display an American flag in the entryway even as 21 brightly colored ceramic phalli were dangling from a clothesline elsewhere in the building as part of an exhibit titled “Hanging ‘Em Out to Dry.”
“Since they’ve been taken down already and they’re in police evidence, I kind of doubt the pieces will go back up,” said Boulder spokeswoman Jennifer Bray. “It’s so controversial that we’ll probably have to discuss it first with the artist and the city council before we make that decision.”
A 49-year-old Boulder County man confessed late Saturday night to stealing the artwork, which had been hanging since Oct. 19 at the library in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In place of the appendages, he hung an American flag on the clothesline and a taunting note.
He told police he was “very offended” by the artwork and by the library’s decision against displaying a large American flag. Earlier this month, library Director Marcelee Gralapp refused an employee’s request to drape a 10-by-15-foot flag from the entrance, saying “it could compromise our objectivity.”
“The librarian turned it down because she said it was too large and made some kind of political statement,” said Mrs. Bray. “I think what people didn’t understand was that there have always been flags at the Boulder library.”
She noted that the library’s auditorium had an American flag on a flagpole that later was moved to the entryway
Even so, the city soon was deluged with nearly 2,000 complaints from across the country over its pro-penis but anti-flag policy.
“Once again, Boulder has the opportunity to become the laughingstock of the country,” Boulder resident Larkin Hosmer wrote in a typical letter to the Boulder Daily Camera. “[T]he flag does not represent a political statement. Rather, it shows love, honor and respect for our country a country that, in case Gralapp hasn’t noticed, is at war because thousands of our citizens and those in other countries were murdered and incinerated by evil people.”
A group of Boulder businessmen taped several U.S. flags to the library entrance in protest. Locals donated a half-dozen flags to the library. Even the usually liberal Daily Camera blasted Miss Gralapp’s decision.
“Gralapp’s goal, as she described it, was to make the environment politically neutral to everyone who entered the building,” the Camera said in a Nov. 5 editorial. “Neutral about what? The democratic values most Americans see in the flag? The warlike values a few individuals read into the flag? The conflict between the United States and terrorism?”
About 10:30 a.m. Saturday, two library volunteers noticed that the art exhibit was missing. The theft drew an angry response from the artist, Susanne Walker, whose work was part of a display titled “Art Triumphs Over Violence.”
“It makes a joke of the pain and suffering involved in this exhibit. If you want to attack me or my artwork, then confront me with discussion. That is the purpose of this type of art,” she wrote in a statement that was posted in the gallery on Saturday. “Debate fuels enlightenment, and by stealing personal property that was taken away.”
The thief called KOA-AM radio late Saturday night.
Police arrived at his home early yesterday morning and confiscated the artwork, but had not yet pressed charges.
“He wasn’t arrested because he was very cooperative and the pieces were not damaged,” said Mrs. Bray. “If the artist wants us to, then we’ll press charges. It depends on how she feels.”