Arts and Culture Local News

A Kentucky group is complaining about an exhibit with nude portraits of women and girls on display at the University of Louisville this week.

The exhibit — called The Century Project — is showing as part of Body Awareness/Body Appreciation Week, an annual campus event. It has more than 100 photos from newborns to women in their 90s in the nude.

The Family Foundation of Kentucky says the exhibit and its creator exploit four nude girls whose portraits are included. Kent Ostrander is the group’s executive director.

“I don’t see the difference of that from a pornographer,” he says.

University provost Shirley Willihnganz says the exhibit is about helping women become more comfortable with their bodies and that the photos are not pornographic.

“Basically, the Supreme Court has looked at a lot of exhibits like this and has deemed his is not pornographic at all,” she says. “What they have said is that you have to have all kinds of conditions for something to be pornographic. This meets none of those.”

Ostrander says that the he’s disappointed in the university’s decision to show the exhibit.

“These are children who, by definition, are under the age of consent,” he says. “So, some adult made the decision that they could be photographed totally nude. I believe that the university and the guy who does the exhibit have crossed the line when they’re talking about underage children being exploited in this way.”

Willihnganz says it’s not about exploitation but helping young women, including those suffering from eating disorders, develop positive self-images. But, she says, the university understands that this exhibit isn’t for everyone.

“The exhibit itself is in a part of campus that one has to deliberately go to,” she says. “There are signs on the doors indicating what’s inside, so that people have to deliberately go in. And we’re really trying be very careful that anybody who really doesn’t want to see this doesn’t inadvertently walk into it.”

The photographer, Frank Cordelle, says he obtained consent from the girls’ parents to photograph them. He will be at the university for panel discussion facilitated by WAVE-TV’s Dawn Gee Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The exhibit was previously on campus two years ago, when Willihnganz says it got 800 visitors and no complaints. University officials say complaints about this showing have come mostly in e-mail messages, with many from out of state.