When you see a headline like the one on FOXNews.com this morning (12/13/06): Virginia Teacher Suspended for Painting With Genitals you just HAVE to read on! ‘They reported and I decided’ . . . I decided that the headline is quite misleading and the teacher in question was wronged.
The story goes that Stephen Murmer, an art teacher at a Virginia High School, also has a fairly successful career as a “pop” artist, although the word “artist” might, in this case, be considered a misnomer by some. Murmer describes himself as a “butt-printing artist.” He coats his rear end and genitals with paint and then transfers the paint to canvas by pressing himself against it. Wierd perhaps, kinky perhaps but not obscene, not illegal and, in my judgement, definitely NOT sufficient grounds for being terminated from his high school teaching position; especially since he uses a pseudonym and takes pains to disguise his identity. His finished work, by the way, is not in any way obscene you could have seen some of his work at his website, http://buttprintart.com/, but right now so many people are trying to visit that Tripod (his web hosting service) had to take his pictures off line. You can see one piece of his art and also read the outrage from parents and students in the school district HERE
I doubt it, but have to say that the School District may be able to make a case against Mr. Murmer, one that justifies their decision — the ACLU has taken up his case and the courts will decide. The mere fact that he uses a pseudonym and he apparently produced a “U-Tube” video showing his “creative process” while disguising his identity may be twisted to “show that he knew he was doing something wrong” in relation to his teaching career. This is the only time that I can remember ever rooting for the ACLU to win a case!
In my opinion, the school district officials, by deciding that Mr. Murmer’s unusual side-line can somehow corrupt their high school students, have shown themselves to be immature moralists. They have (had) an art teacher who is creative, successful, well-liked by his students and who takes pains to keep his career as a professional artist very separate from his teaching career. Since their school policy states that “teachers must set an example for students through their personal conduct” are they saying that being creative, successful and well-liked is improper? Of course not! They are saying that the mere fact that Mr. Murmer uses his genitals and rear-end, in the privacy of his studio, under a different name, to create his art is somehow a corrupting influence on his students.
I would guess that, even though there is no suggestion that he brought his private “personality” into his classroom, Mr. Murmer’s students were all aware of his side-line (its hard to hide anything from teenagers; and if they were unaware before they certainly know about it now) and they no doubt thought it was hilarious. After having had a good laugh, however, some of them might have also started to understand that a successful artist never limits his or her creativity based on what others might consider proper or improper artistic expression. Now, however, that the school board has done it’s bit, Mr. Murmer’s students have received a different lesson, a lesson about Puritan ethics.
Channel 8 News in Richmond VA: Reaction Continues Over Controversial Art Teacher (This site shows one sample of Mr. Murmer’s work.)
From the blogosphere:
BloggingBaby: Suspended art teacher moonlights as butt printing artist (Includes other samples of Mr. Murmer’s work.)
Slobokan’s Site: Teacher Suspended For Being Artistic
If you blog about news and want many more people to read what you have to say, The Blogger News Network has an offer you may not want to refuse. Go check it out!
powered by performancing firefox