Nude Sculptures Banned by Boca Prudes, and Other Stupid Art Controversies

Eiland with her offending nudes
South Florida may be the nation's capital for sex, sun, and artificial breasts, but apparently some people are still too prude to handle naked sculptures. Last week, city employees at Boca Raton's Patch Reef Park decided that two naked-lady torsos by local sculptor Mary Eiland were too provocative to be seen.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, they hid the sculptures until Eiland came by to pick them up. She also took back the rest of her work, and said anyone who had taken offense had "better not watch any television or go on the computer or go to a mall. Or, actually, they'd better just stay in their house." Eiland had displayed the same sculptures in the same place for the previous two years, without incident.

This is just the latest in a string of idiotic controversies over public art in South Florida.

Bureaucratic wranglings beset the Zimbabwean sculptures installed in May in Fort Lauderdale's Middle River Terrace. Sculptor Raymond Chirimbadare carved some impressionistic figures by hand out of a granite block in Zimbabwe; they were installed at NE 13th street by the railroad tracks. After years of legal deliberations and political disagreements about the sculptures, a last-minute order from city hall required them to be installed sideways on the roadway median, with their narrow sides facing traffic. All for the best, according to former city commissioner and Middle River resident Tim Smith: "We got the last word... we have the sculptures' rears facing city hall!" Despite the re-orienting of the sculptures, one of them was hit by a car a few months later.

UPDATE: Tim Smith provides another priceless tidbit: "There was a fourth sculpture that we didn't put up," he says. "Somebody at city hall said it depicted a black pregnant woman." This was deemed unacceptable for the poor, mostly black neighborhood, but when another statue was destroyed by a car, says Smith, "we ended up putting up the pregnant black woman."

An episode of prudery last year involved "Journey to the New," a sculpture outside the Addison Plaza mall in Delray Beach, by Jewish artist Itzik Asher. An homage to Jewish families fleeing Ethiopia in 1991, it includes elongated bronze nude figures of a man, woman and child. The man's bronze penis was at issue, especially with parent of kids at a nearby school. Asher lamented that "there are still narrow-minded people that behave like children."

Public art is not immune to public idiocy south of the Broward/Miami-Dade line, although the examples of the bright pink snails involves vandalism rather than censorship. The 45 snails, installed around Miami Beach last month for Art Basel, were designed to be slowly moved toward the ocean. They were summarily covered in graffiti, punched, and thrown into the bay. "Every morning I wake up with a disaster," said the gallery owner behind the snails' installation.

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Finally, this one hasn't caused a controversy yet, but by the prudish standards shown here, it's only a matter of time: Fort Lauderdale's official centennial poster by Charles Fazzino, unveiled this month, shows Santa with -- gasp! -- a bikini-clad blonde. See, this rolls the War on Christmas and artistic depictions of naked ladies into one! If the Boca Raton sculptures were offensive, why not this? Get on it, prudes of the world! This shall not stand!

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Kudos to the lady who stood up and said 'NO' to Ms Eilands' 'artwork' and made the decision to keep the 'nude' sculptures hidden behind the paintings. I wish we had millions more like her in this country who were willing to take a stand for morality and for our children/grandchildren.

We have seen an unbelievable moral decline in America and, as parents and grandparents, should be grateful to those who are willing to make an attempt to protect our children and grandchildren.

Allowing 'artwork' of this nature could well be one of the main reasons (as the person noted above): "South Florida may be the nation's capital for sex, sun, and artificial breasts"

Thanks for the article!


Contemporary trends in youthful language-mangling notwithstanding, the word "prude" is a noun, not an adjective. Prudish would have been the correct choice in the first paragraph. Having purged that peeve, all I can say is that the American hoi polloi have never been exemplars of artistic sophistication or sexual maturity. The regenerative symbiosis between Puritanism and prurience has been a reliably churning engine since the Mayflower made landfall, and it shows no signs of running down. 

Jim Owens
Jim Owens

I'm always amazed how many people talk incessantly about the brave men and women who fought for our freedom. If they did fight, then they lost, seeing how we've LOST SO MANY FREEDOMS!


Florida legislature are sex perverts celebrating the rape of a little 12 year old named Mary Christmas.I am an artist also. I made more money 30 years ago before I became an artist. The 1st amendment is violated daily by these enemies of the Bill of Rights.

joanna bayles
joanna bayles

I have just seen the interview with the artist concerning her nude sculptures. This has got to be the most ignorant act of art banning yet! I am an artist and art teacher, there is absolutely nothing anythere that would dictate that these pieces are offensive to anyone. If this is the case then I would ask, "have any one of these so-called critics travelled? Have they gone to Greece? Have they perhaps gone to Rome/Italy?? Have they ever read a book on art and actually looked at the pictures? Florida has sooo many art classes available for seniors, does this say that all these budding artists may not take life classes for fear of being brain-washed sexually?

Ignorance is a crippling mind set. It leaves little room for growth and when the people have little to say about what art they may or may not see or children are not exposed to all levels of media being created, well, perhaps the heat has finally gone to their heads.What a shame. This is a cultural center??Perhaps I have misunderstood the play on words here.Thanking you for your time,A shaking head in Canada.

Kenny PowersSays
Kenny PowersSays

Living in South Florida is almost like living in the U S of A.

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