Issue 64, Winter 1996/1997

Artist Robyn Bellospirito’s work, including three contested paintings, was displayed at the Manhasset, New York library in 1996. The exhibit had been cancelled in 1993 for violating the library’s “no nudes” policy.

This irrational policy, often found in public libraries, casts an enormous chill on creativity. It causes many artists who want their work to be viewed in public places to restrict the subjects they depict, thus censoring themselves.

Bellospirito won a victory for artists and for freedom of expression after she sued the library for deprivation of her First Amendment rights. Federal district court judge Thomas Platt ruled that the library had created a display area which constituted a “limited public forum,” and that the state lacked a compelling interest in suppressing nudity. His ruling caused the library director to reschedule the show.