- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

A debate of another nature continues at Arizona State University in anticipation of next week’s matchup there between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

At issue is an exhibition of political art titled “Democracy in America: Political Satire Then and Now” that coincides with the third and final presidential debate Wednesday. It showcases historical art alongside contemporary art and includes paintings, prints, cartoons and photos.

When plans for the display were first reported in Phoenix’s New Times on July 1, the publication said there would be enough anti-Bush art in the exhibit at the Tempe campus to “make Michael Moore blush” — a reference to the “Fahrenheit 9/11” filmmaker.

The newspaper also published e-mails sent from the director of the ASU Art Museum, the president of the university and other administrators, seemingly concerned about the need for more “political balance” in the show.

Based on those e-mails, there were reports some works seen as anti-Bush were being removedand replaced by others described as either more favorable to Mr. Bush or more critical of Mr. Kerry.

However, Milton D. Glick, executive vice president and provost of ASU, said in a letter to the American Association of University Professors that the exhibit was in a state of flux when the first New Times article appeared, and no “final decisions on acceptance of items” had been made at that time.

The National Coalition Against Censorship said angry pieces deemed “too heavy on the Bush-negative” might be removed.

“ASU administrators promised that the show would not go on unless it was politically balanced,” Joan E. Bertin, executive director of the anti-censorship group, said in a fund-raising letter sent out last month.

In her letter, Ms. Bertin argues that “balance in an art exhibit is a wrong-headed concept and one that defeats the very premise of the First Amendment.”

However, Mica Matsoff, spokeswoman for the museum, said only one work was withdrawn from the exhibit, which runs through Nov. 19. The piece was a series of eight photographs of angry children and was pulled not for political reasons but for the quality of the art.

One of the anti-Bush works remaining in the exhibit is artist Lynn Randolph’s oil painting “The Coronation of St. George.” It portrays the five U.S. Supreme Court justices who overturned Florida’s manual recount of ballots in the 2000 presidential election, crowning Mr. Bush commander in chief while demons hover nearby.

“It should come as no surprise that we found much more work that focused on Bush because he had been in power for four years,” Marily Zeitlin, director of the museum and curator of the exhibit, told the State Press, ASU’s student newspaper.

Other anti-Bush art includes a print by Los Angeles artist Robbie Conal that likens Mr. Bush to a fat, wrinkled prune. His profile is in front of a mushroom cloud, and the message “Read My Apocalips” is overhead.

Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, is criticized in a ceramic figurine called “Kerry in Idaho” by Jim Budde. It features a bottle of Heinz 57 ketchup used as a phallic symbol.

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