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Exhibit Circumscribed

John Coleburn, Staff Reporter
The Province, p. A2, September 14, 1993

Artist James Loewen thinks he suffered the second cruelest cut of all when the West End Community Centre yanked his photo exhibit on circumcision.

"They told me it could offend the parents of preschoolers," Loewen, 39, said yesterday after retrieving his suddenly controversial work from a display showcase at the Vancouver centre.

James Loewen.gif (78356 bytes)
James Loewen sits among photos used in
circumcision exhibit that was banned at
Vancouver's West End Community Centre.
Staff photo by Colin Price

"It really wasn't my intent to offend anybody, as it was supposed to inform people about the subject of circumcision."

Loewen's exhibit included pictures he took of a San Francisco rally dealing with the topic. He also had photos of authors who are experts on male and female circumcision. Other material documented men who have ended up with lifelong problems after a botched cutting of the foreskin around the penis.

In the exhibit at the Denman Street public facility there were a number of pictures showing babies' penises, but Loewen said nothing was offensive. "They were very, very tiny pictures of baby penises," he said. The artist figures that he put close to 1,000 hours into preparing the exhibit.

Loewen, who lives and has a studio in Vancouver's West End, was expecting to have his work on display for three weeks.

"I tried to cover as much as I could on the topic and the display case at the centre is a prime location," he said. "Any artist is proud to have their work on display there."

Community centre co-ordinator Warren Coughlan said the exhibit wasn't suitable for the main hallway. "This exhibit was not what we agreed to initially," he said. "It was very graphic."

Freedom to Create
Censorship Affects You

Paula Gustafson
XTRA! West, October 21, 1994

More immediately linked to the issue of censorship are James Loewen's three photos taken at the Children's Rights demonstration in San Francisco, July 12, 1993. Suggesting that the rite of circumcision is genital mutilation raises eyebrows in both the medical and religious communities - and the hackles of the West End Community Centre's art committee who condemned Loewen's photo exhibit within an hour after he put it up. His display here includes their September 13, 1993 statement, "The West End Community Centre is not a place to show artwork of any social significance."

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