Student art project creates controversy at Freedom Square

A student art project depicts a man masturbating in the foreground. In the background, police and TU administration speak with someone involved in the art project.

By: Sarah Rowan, News Editor

An art project in Freedom Square designed to make a statement about social problems and censorship created some controversy when TUPD were called to the scene to investigate.

The art project consisted of four sculptures: one depicted a homeless man; one depicted a man passed out from drinking too much; one depicted a woman who was a victim of sexual assault. The final sculpture depicted a man with his pants unzipped and his hand on his penis.

The artist, fine arts major Liz Lawson, said that she wasn’t expecting the reaction to be as large as it was.

“You know we all have a sexual nature, but it seems that if we ever talk about it or if we’re open about it, it’s a scary thing, or we’re not supposed to,” Lawson said. “People get really worked up about it like it’s a problem.”

Students congregate around the art project. Photo by Cody Boteler
Students congregate around the art project. Photo by Cody Boteler

Director of Civic Engagement and Leadership Chris Jensen said that the project was an issue of space and safety. TUPD investigated because it could have been related to a non-affiliate, putting students at risk.

According to Kaitlyn Cole, a student who was tabling for Alpha Xi Delta, a large crowd began to gather and watch once police arrived to investigate what was happening.

TUPD initially questioned Lawson’s boyfriend, Trevor Slade, who is not a student at TU.

Slade said he was initially there to observe the project, but then wrapped himself in a sheet because he “got kind of cold” and thought he might be able to take a nap.

“But then I realized that it was a really good point where I could just hide underneath the sheet and take pictures of people looking at [the sculptures] without them knowing,” Slade said. “So that worked really nicely.”

Many students walking through Freedom Square during the investigation stopped to take pictures of the scene. One student was there to take pictures for the Trashed Towson Instagram page. Several people laughed as they walked by, or expressed some kind of surprise and disgust.

Some bystanders initially thought that Slade was the artist.

Three students, Katy Bocchino, Tori Markham and Samantha David waited in Freedom Square to meet the artist, who Slade said would arrive at 12:50 p.m.

“This is amazing because any sort of art that gets a reaction is good art,” David said. “She’s definitely commenting on something, I don’t know what it is.”

Bocchino said that when TUPD arrived at the scene, Slade filmed

A sculpture depicts a man passed out from drinking too much alcohol. Photo by Cody Boteler.
A sculpture depicts a man passed out from drinking too much alcohol. Photo by Cody Boteler.

the encounter and refused to answer any questions.

When Lawson arrived, the TUPD questioned both her and Slade, and left once they learned that it was a student project.

“This is why you do an investigation,” a TUPD officer said.

Lawson said that the project was meant to question what should and what shouldn’t be acceptable in society.

“If we have things such as sexual abuse, or we have homelessness, or we have people passed out on drugs all the time, people won’t even bat an eye,” Lawson said. “They ignore it. But if you see something normal, or something that’s not worth being treated as barbaric, then we’re going to freak out about that.

While Lawson and Slade were already planning on taking the project down today, Lawson said that she was initially worried that the university would force them to remove it.

The pair removed the sculptures from Freedom Square shortly after TUPD left.

“Art is the only freedom, and they make that pretty hard,” Lawson said.

Cody Boteler contributed to this article. 

 

Leave a Reply