This might be related to why orchestras seem to have so much trouble in the Sun Belt:
“It was like an invitation to a date,” says Sarasota artist Pablo Rodriguez of his painting, “Modern Venus,” which he installed in early January in the Sarasota Orchestra’s Harmony Gallery as part of his exhibit, I’ll Be Seeing You. “This piece was supposed to be the centerpiece of the whole thing. It was a pretty big piece and in the Harmony Gallery that was the thing that was drawing your eye.” The piece hung uninterrupted for over two weeks after the exhibit opened on Jan. 12, but three mothers with children in the Sarasota youth orchestra deemed “Venus” too racy for their children’s innocent eyes and filed one formal and two informal complaints.
“They gave me two options,” Rodriguez says. “It was drape it or take it down. I chose to take it down.” Rodriguez removed the painting — a mild, not-nude ode to his wife — on Jan. 29.
Rodriguez’s frustration stemmed from the personal nature of the piece. “After you have worked on something for two months straight for a show it was of course disheartening,” explains Rodriguez. “In the past six months I have married the love of my life and the exhibit was supposed to be a celebration of love through music. … When we got back from our honeymoon I started working on it. There’s a lot of things that are personal to both of us, like our favorite number is 11 and there’s 11 stars in the sky. What better thing to immortalize the show then to have my wife as the center of the show.”
Gordon Greenfield, the chief marketing officer for the orchestra, feels for Rodriguez, but says in this case his hands were tied. “I understand Pablo’s view because it is personal,” says Greenfield. “There were three complaints and that was enough that we had to treat it seriously. I can’t make other people’s judgments for what their children are exposed to. I personally didn’t have a problem with it. I have a 13-year-old daughter and I wouldn’t feel anything wrong with her walking past it. If it was a private gallery there wouldn’t be a problem. Because of the nature of our gallery, which is really our lobby, there really wasn’t a choice to see it or not.”
The Sarasota Orchestra should probably also avoid programming Don Juan, Mahler 5, the Prelude and Liebestod, La Traviata…and, of course, all ballet music except Nutcracker. And they should definitely find a new name for that one.