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Gallery will hold nude show

City Councilman Eric Navickas and his partner, Amy Godard, will hold a nude show at their downtown gallery next month in response to an attempt to ban nudity in Ashland.

"The Nude" exhibit will feature traditional nude portraits and conceptual art involving live, naked people.

"We feel that the nude ban is not only an attack on freedom of expression but also an attack on the human body itself," Navickas said. "We wanted to have a show to celebrate the nude body and differentiate the nude body from anything indecent."

The City Council is scheduled to vote on Jan. 5 whether to ban nudity in the city. Council members discussed the issue at a meeting on Tuesday night, but ran out of time before they could come to a consensus.

According to Navickas, the council is divided between those who would like to ban nudity within 200 feet of school zones and those who would like to ban nudity outright in the city. Navickas, who has participated in naked protests in the past, originally favored legalizing nudity throughout Ashland but now says he is willing to compromise and ban nudity near school zones.

"Because of the strong community response to this, I feel a compromise is due," he said.

Nudity is legal in Ashland except in the downtown area and public parks, where people are required to cover their genitals.

Earlier this year, some city officials and residents began to call for a ban on nudity after two men were spotted walking naked near schools.

Navickas and Godard are hoping to create a dialogue in the community about nudity with their show — not incite controversy, they said.

"It's not like we're trying to polarize anything," Godard said. "We're trying to pay homage to the nude, which is a strong tradition in the arts."

In its year of existence, the gallery has already become known for its sometimes controversial and activist exhibits.

Last January, the gallery made international news with its opening exhibit, where visitors launched paint-covered shoes at a large portrait of President George W. Bush. The exhibit was a "statement of solidarity" for Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who was arrested after throwing two shoes at the president in December 2008, the gallery owners said.

"The Nude" show is inspired by Walt Whitman's poem, "I Sing the Body Electric," Godard said. The call to artists for the exhibit quotes this line from the poem: "And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?"

The exhibit will be held Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the MAda Shell Gallery, 27 1/2 E. Main St. No. 7, on Ashland's plaza.

It will feature work by seven to ten local artists. The gallery is still seeking art submissions. Interested artists can e-mail madashellgallery@yahoo.com for more information.

Godard and Navickas will exhibit their work at the show, but likely won't appear nude, they said. However, it's possible more people than those involved in the conceptual art pieces will be naked: Clothing will be optional for visitors to the exhibit, Godard said.

"We'll have heaters going," she said. "I know it's at the end of January, but it will be warm in there."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.