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CLAY YARBOROUGH, GUARDIAN OF CIVIC VIRTUE, DOES NOT CARE FOR THOSE LADY PARTS, MOCA

The Jacksonville City Council president (and Jesus, probably) have decided that MOCA’s newest exhibit is porn, are demanding that its funding be cut

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GREETINGS FROM COWFORD, YOU GUYS!

So yesterday morning Clay Yarborough, our Bible-thumping City Council president, wandered into the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (we’re guessing he was lost?), and came across MOCA’s new Project Atrium exhibit, which we so happened to write about just this week. And lo and behold, in the midst of all the pretty pictures, he saw something disturbing: a picture of a woman, eight months pregnant, lying on a couch, her breasts exposed. 

HER BARE. FUCKING. BREASTS. To the fainting couch!  

Yarboroug fired off an email to Chris Hand, the mayor’s chief of staff, demanding that … well, why don’t you just read the whole thing for yourself? 

From: Yarborough, Clay 
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 3:41 PM
To: Hand, Chris
Subject: Pornographic display at MOCA
Importance: High

Chris,

Upon entering the Laura Street doors today at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), I saw a large picture on display straight ahead hanging on the lower right corner of the gallery wall of a woman with bare breasts exposed and laying in a questionable position. Given that any member of the public, including children of all ages can enter, and are in fact encouraged to do so, as City Council President I take great offense on behalf of the people of Jacksonville that the City would accept this. The City of Jacksonville is currently budgeted to give MOCA $233,029 in taxpayer funds for the current fiscal year. Unless Mayor Brown supports this inappropriate, pornographic display, and accepts that anyone, including children can enter and see it, I insist that you immediately cause to be pulled all funding designated for MOCA for the current fiscal year or otherwise explain how this will be addressed within 24 hours.

I look forward to your response.

So, to recap: Clay Yarborough considers any artistic display of a woman’s breasts porn, and is so worried about said porn corrupting the innocent minds of Jacksonville children that he would just gut the museum’s funding unless it abides by his moral dictates, because Clay Yarborough has appointed himself our Great Moral Compass and has taken it upon himself to decide when we all should be offended. 

Hand, who is nicer than we are and still needs Yarborough to pass that pension deal, did not call him an ignorant hayseed, though 20 bucks says that thought crossed his mind. Instead, he politely pointed out that MOCA’s funding is funneled through the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville — which, really, is the kind of thing a City Council president should know, but whatever — and hinted that, you know, there may be First Amendment issues with this sort of overt censorship. 

Hand followed up a bit later: 

President Yarborough:

I walked over to MOCA this morning so that I could see for myself the display you referenced below. Attached is the brochure of the exhibit, which explains that “Photographer Angela Strassheim illustrates transitional points in our lives – particularly the precious, fleeting nature of childhood and adolescence – in this Project Atrium exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida. Many photographs feature her nieces and nephews at several phases of their lives, and half have never been exhibited before.”

The photograph you cited appears to be a woman who is seven or eight months pregnant reclining on a couch.  I did not see any other photographs with nudity, so I assume that is the one you meant.

To which Yarborough responded: “Is the building in which MOCA operates owned by the City?”

Well, yes, it is, and that’s where the email chain ends, at least as of end of business today. TV news crews have already caught wind, so expect Yarborough to be properly humiliated into backing down here soon enough. 

In the meantime, I caught up with MOCA Director Marcelle Polednik, and asked her what she thought when things like this happened — things that, quite frankly, don’t happen in more sophisticated cities.

“Philosophically,” she replied, “it's an interesting moment. It tells me several things. As a contemporary art museum we’re doing our job well — provoking dialogue — and to grow and engage in dialogue that may not have previously been engaged in.” 

As she points out, nudes are firmly rooted in the firmament of the artistic realm — they have artistic merit. They aren’t obscene. They aren’t pornographic.

And Clay Yarborough is most certainly not the City’s Official Arbiter of what’s decent, no matter how much he thinks he is. 

UPDATE: Folio Weekly writer-at-large Susan Cooper Eastman secured a statement from Yarborough via text message. It went like this: 

“It stunned me to walk into a City-owned building and be greeted by a large picture of a naked woman, particularly because the tenant is receiving over $230,000 in General Fund taxpayer dollars through the Cultural Council this fiscal year. The picture is in plain view of anyone entering, including school children. I notified the Mayor’s Office yesterday after seeing it and attempted to reach the Mayor today to find out whether he supports or opposes the pornography remaining in place, but I have not received a response. This issue works against our efforts to promote a family-friendly Jacksonville and downtown. I am trying to promote a positive moral climate in our city and though some will defend the pornography by labeling it ‘art,’ we need boundaries in order to be healthy, especially where it concerns our children.”

Yarborough did not answer our question about whether he considers all art that features breasts porn, or if there is a level of boob exposure that he considers acceptable. 

UPDATE 2: As former Folio Weekly editor Anne Schindler and managing editor John E. Citrone have informed me on Facebook, this is the same Clay Yarborough who once tried to get all Folio Weekly distribution boxes removed from city property because he took offense to a cover story John wrote on BDSM, which had entirely too much sexytime for Clay’s taste. 

UPDATE 3 (last one, as I’d really like to get this long weekend started): And here is the official statement from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville: 

The Cultural Council stands ready to defend the artistic and curatorial choices of our cultural service grantees.

Council President Yarborough's objection to a photography exhibit featuring the human form, which has been present in museums, homes and galleries since the dawn of time, is unfortunate and could be viewed as an effort to stifle artistic expression. This particular exhibit, which celebrates the "transitional points" in life - "the precious, fleeting nature of childhood and adolescence" - opened to rave reviews last week. We're proud to have an organization of MOCA's caliber in our community and we stand behind it, it's executive and the artist behind this amazing exhibit.

UPDATE 4 (because who needs vacay anyway?): The headline and URL have been altered to remove the word “boobs,” because apparently Facebook’s algorithm, like Clay Yarborough, does not like them, and all posts that linked to this story up and vanished overnight. 

9 comments on this story | Add your comment
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joshlee415

Here's my letter to our city council - please write if you don't want mentally ill conservatives to dictate our city's future!

Dear Council President Yarborough,

I'm writing you, your city council colleagues, and our mayor out of concern after recent statements you made in regards to a certain work by photographer Angela Strassheim currently on display at MOCA Jacksonville.

After seeing the work, I understand you demanded that MOCA Jacksonville's funding be pulled for displaying this piece since you perceived it to be pornographic. Having seen this very work, I have to express my sincere concern for you. Frankly, sexualizing a photograph of a pregnant woman in repose seems more than a bit "off" to me. If this image is scintillating to you, seeing cheerleaders at a Jaguars game must be a terrible test of your moral steel. And I imagine going to the beach must be an agony that surely approaches that of Jesus in the garden.

By sexualizing the non-sexual, and by attempting to cripple one of this city's bright and growing cultural institutions, you jeopardize a renaissance that has made me proud to call Jacksonville home. Cities that can foster creativity, be it artistic, culinary, theatrical, or musical, are increasingly rare in this country - just look to New York, San Francisco, Portland, or Austin for examples of wilting cultural scenes. I challenge you to show the citizens of this city how your demands are anything other than moralistic grandstanding, or else a cry for help from an ill man who sexualizes anything involving the human form.

To the Mayor and other members of my city council, please see that Council President Yarborough's views are out of place and honestly alarming. If I had a friend of family member who viewed the photo in question as pornography we would have to have a very long talk about their well being. Don't let one man's crippled view of sex, the human form, and art dictate the narrative of culture in our city.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014|Report this

mmschill

I started the twitter #PresYarboroughIsIntoWeirdPorn

This isn't about art. This is about the fact that our CCP views this picture as vulgar. Pregnancy is not vulgar. Women are not vulgar. It is not vulgar for children to see a pregnant woman. The pregnant form is not something of shame. Women should not be ashamed. Children should not be modeled shame.

To think anything to the contrary displays a sense of hyper-sexuality, in viewing the sexual in something that is NOT sexual. The CCP's view point is perverted. Is our society so over sexed that we are starting to see sex where it isn't.

Just because a woman is nude doesn't make it porn. Just because you are sexually aroused by a benign image doesn't make it obscene--it makes you, and your mind, obscene.

Some people find five-year old girls doing splits in the park arousing, and we typically call these people perverts. This is what this is. This photo in question is not a sexual photo. It was not meant to be. It is an 8month pregnant woman.

#PresYarboroughIsIntoWeirdPorn <---because our CCP needs to get his views on women straightened out. Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this

panamaa

I for one am happy Council President Yarborough is standing up for whats right in America.. He is speaking up for all us white, good fearing, clean thinking, true Christian solders... God bless america!!!!!! Carry on Clay................... NOT>>>>>>>>> Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this

RoyAlbertBerry

I tried:

Dear Council President Yarborough,

While many of my colleagues and friends have responded to your position concerning MOCA and Angela Strasseim's photographs by taking the highroad and attempting to explain why you're wrong, I'm going to do the opposite.  

You're stupid.  You're so stupid, you thought a quarterback was a refund.  You're so stupid you jumped out of a window and went up.  You're so stupid you think a nude of pregnant woman is pornographic.  

You smell.  All the other council members have personally told me that they hate being around you because you smell like Krystal burger farts.  You were the paper mill smell that used to be in Jacksonville but you retired and became a stinky dude in a smelly suit.  

You're boring.  You are the personification of a pair of khakis and a golf shirt. When you take off your khakis and golf shirt, you're wearing another pair of khakis and a another golf shirt.  You're the Olive Garden of life.  

Basically, no one comes to where you work and slaps the dick out of your mouth so maybe have a little decency and don't meddle where you're COMPLETELY ignorant.  

Roy Albert Berry

904-735-5062

Roy@Royalbertberry.com Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this

suzyspringfield

This is just more proof that he is incapable of separating his personal extremist views from the secular world of the city council. He obviously comes from a place of ignorance and misplaced sexualization.

He doesn't represent me or my views; it still astounds me that he was chosen to represent my city council. I await for his ban on public breast feeding. Should he not being worrying about the many homeless that surround the downtown area not having any where to sleep or eat on this Thanksgiving? Maybe worry about the scores of people that are dying from violence, not just in major new stories across the nation, but right here in Jacksonville. Daily, someone dies from violence, and yet brattily threatening to defund a museum that shows nudes is his priority. Pushing your sanctimonious views onto the public and calling it a morality obligation is far from accurate. I also don’t recall anyone electing him to the moral police...

I'm in mourning for our city; in mourning for our inability to move into this century (or the past ten centuries that have featured nudes as art and not porn) and be a modern city that can look at art with a discerning eye and not sexualize a woman's pregnant body; in mourning for the fact that our city council thought this guy was adequate to lead and represent them.

If children haven't seen the human form by the age in which they're being taken to a museum, then shame on the parents for not showing their children what we are at our most base being. If this is their first exposure to the human body as an art form, then we should rejoice and answer questions and move the eff on. Children will not sexualize this photo, but obviously our city council president will.

More over, I’m offended that this is the first time he’d paid attention to MOCA. They often have nudes on display; amazing examples that show our bodies at their best, worst, and weirdest. Yet, this is the first time he’s bothered to look around. Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this

frankiem1

I like when he says "questionable position." God can you imagine being married to someone so repressed? I feel sorry for his wife. While this might gain some traction with his FBC base I'm sure there's a few that haven't been completely sheltered their whole lives & can recognize the difference between "pornography: & art. Sadly this isn't the first time we've heard similar rants from Yarborough although I wish we could say it was the last. Thursday, November 27, 2014|Report this

panamaa

Upon reading this again, I'm reminded of a quote by Ambrose Bierce;

"A true Christian is one that believes the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor".....

Go crawl into your cave Clay and leave us alone................. Sunday, November 30, 2014|Report this

Carolyne

A bit boring but I am adding a copy of my letter into the mix. Yes, please write.

Dear Clay Yarborough,

I write in support of continued public funding for artistic expression at MOCA. If you wish Jacksonville to be a city that supports the arts, tourism and the vibrancy of a creative community, then it is imperative that you recognize that the point of art is not to please individual tastes, but rather to express the human condition. The nude has been an art form for millennia, it is hardly controversial, and it is difficult to imagine how you could (in the light of this history) frame an argument that the photograph you object to is psychologically damaging. Censorship and repression on the other hand, are clearly damaging to any democratic society. Any attempt to cut funding for the arts in Jacksonville is particularly harmful as so many members of multiple communities here have worked so hard in the last few years to put Jacksonville on the map of cities with a vibrant and diverse cultural life. We need to continue those efforts. In the light of these arguments I strongly urge you to reconsider your recent stance on MOCA funding. Sunday, November 30, 2014|Report this

thespotrocks

Hey Clay Yarborough! My latest novel, Purehearts, has S-E-X in it! Could you please, please, pretty please call it "porn" and demand that it be banned?? Please, with sugar and honey on it?? BTW, you can get it on Amazon. But DON'T allow it in any of the local libraries or bookstores! (could lead to dancing). Tuesday, December 2, 2014|Report this