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Ratings System for Exhibits Has a Backer or Two

February 14, 1988|ALLAN JALON

Not every parent will agree with Marlena McDermott on the subject of controversial art and kids. But her concerns on the issue undoubtedly reflect the trouble many parents have grappling with this thorny issue.

McDermott, who organizes children's cultural activities for the Parent Teacher Assn. at El Morro Elementary School in Laguna Beach, is a painter. She is also the parent of three children, ages 5, 10 and 21, and she complained at a PTA meeting about the Laguna Art Museum's "Morality Tales" exhibition of art by Leon Golub and other artists.

"I'm not for censorship," she said. "I think we should support the museums for the kids. They don't get as much art education in school as they used to. . . . We are trying to expose them to as much cultural experience as we can."

But, she continued: "There's a lot of strange artwork out there right now. Maybe it reflects our psyches now, and we're getting kind of weird as a society. I think that part of the problem is that museums don't have a lot to choose from because artists are merely reflecting the weirdness in the society.

"A lot of art is aggressive now. It's not enjoyable to look at. It is a reflection of a society in which there is so much anger. People are shooting at each other in cars. A guy's car stalls in Tustin, somebody pulls up in a pickup and shoots him. These are things happening in our society, and maybe that is what art should deal with."

Even when she sees its value, though, McDermott said she feels uncomfortable showing younger children difficult art.

"I think the museums are going to have to decide who they want to cater to, whether they want to have a variety of different age groups come through or whether they want to cater to adults," she said.

Lynn Chaldu, president of the El Morro PTA, suggested that museums might consider having a rating system for exhibitions, like the one the movie industry uses for films. Dinah McClintock, education curator of the Laguna Art Museum, said: "That wouldn't be a bad idea at all. I wouldn't have any problem with that at all. In fact, it might be a very good idea."

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