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Let the Nudes Fly Free

July 24, 2001|MADISON SHOCKLEY | Madison Shockley is a writer in residence at USC's Annenberg School for Communication

As I have flown more and more in recent years I have grown increasingly embarrassed by the lack of functionality, convenience and the dismal appearance of LAX. Just as we seemed to be taking off, with millions spent in renovations, finally assuming our rightful place among the top-tier airports of the world, we get called back to the gate by some narrow-minded bureaucrats and airport employees who have no appreciation for art or its role in human culture.

We all know Dulles, Dallas, Atlanta and Denver as state-of-the-art airports. But when Cleveland and Kansas City--where I have traveled to lately--have you beat, it's time for action. I nearly jumped up and cheered when I discovered my first self-flushing toilet at LAX earlier this year.

Thus, the blatant censorship of the floor mural featuring nude figures by Susan Narduli is all the more incomprehensible.

Having been denied the privilege of viewing it firsthand because the art in the American Airlines terminal has been covered, I was nonetheless inspired by the pictures printed in The Times. The accompanying narrative of the artist's vision and interpretation of the universal theme of flight, made me even more eager to see it for myself.

Alas, my hopes are bogged down in a game of pass-the-buck down at City Hall.

At least in New York City the mayor stood out front and center as the self-appointed art censor, but we only are offered a few anonymous employees and unnamed company co-conspirators as the villains in this emerging melodrama. I want to know who covered it up and I want to know who can reveal it once again.

The suggestion that the airport agency will base its decision on how the art plays with the public is absurd. The public can't decide if the public can't see it.

"We are a public place and we have an obligation not to offend people

If people don't want to be offended, then they should stay where they are. If the whole world looked like Des Moines, there wouldn't really be much point to travel, would there?

I look to an airport to tell me, "Hey, you are now someplace different! Wake up and look around you." I don't want an airport to remind me of home, that's why I left in the first place.

Removing the nude figures would be an outright tragedy for the artist who gave heart and soul to its creation and for the generations yet to pass this way who would likely be given a psychedelic rendering of the Hollywood sign instead of this provocative and inspiring mural.

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