U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Lomita) is apparently looking to make his name in politics by bashing the National Endowment for the Arts. He's gotten good mileage out of the NEA flap, which has focused primarily on the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. But along the way, he and his comrade in the Senate, Jesse Helms, have helped create a climate that threatens to chill artistic expression.
In Fullerton, for example, the Muckenthaler Cultural Center this week removed from an exhibit on "Heroes, Heroines, Idols and Icons" the by-now thoroughly familiar photograph of a nude John Lennon curled around a fully clothed Yoko Ono, his wife. The Ono-Lennon photograph by Annie Leibovitz, which first ran on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine years ago, was removed from the exhibition ostensibly because it wasn't in keeping with the exhibition's "positive" theme. But the exhibit's curator said the show was to focus on "how we, as a society, elevate celebrities" and others "to the level of hero." Under this criterion, Lennon certainly qualifies. The museum's board of trustees meets today to reevaluate the decision. They should put the photograph back in the exhibit.