Town apologizes for ban on nursing art

January 3, 2008 8:37:54 AM PST
It's a simple painting of a mother nursing her newborn baby. But, the artwork has become the center of controversy in Lubbock, Texas, because it was banned, sight unseen, from an art show, in a city-owned building.

Artist Lahib Jaddo painted the portrait that is now the center of a storm in the west Texas town. This is the second painting of hers to cause uproar. Jaddo's work is very delicate and evocative; however, she is baffled about the reaction to the two drawings. "The first painting shows a pregnant lady a week before she gives birth; the second one is the same woman after she gives birth."

The incident has ignited an online firestorm by outraged mothers.

One wouldn't think nursing mothers would need legal protection, but the state of Texas passed a law in 1995 permitting women to breast-feed in public. It entitles a woman to breast-feed her baby anywhere a mother is authorized to be.

So why was the painting banned? Was it the hint of nudity? Annie Harrison, the model for Jaddo's work, told The Associated Press, "I don't think the images were obscene. The point she was making is, this is beautiful."

Vince Gonzalez is an attorney for the Lubbock chapter of the ACLU. He challenged the city's ban on the drawings and asked to see the city policy banning nudity in art during exhibits in city-owned buildings. It turned out there was no such policy. Two weeks after the ban, the city backed down and issued this apology to Jaddo.

"For the past two years, the Buddy Holly Center has operated under a written no-nudes practice," said City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld. "After review of current case law, we have determined we should not place restrictions on art exhibits. I apologize to Ms. Jaddo for the inconvenience and I hope she will consider hosting a future exhibit at the center."

Jaddo is still surprised that a drawing of a nursing mother could cause such uneasiness. "I guess they don't see this as art. Perhaps they think it might scare people."

The controversy isn't going away soon in Lubbock. A protest by nursing mothers is scheduled Friday at the center where Jaddo's work would have been exhibited.

Russ Poteet with KLBK News contributed to this story.

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