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In some small, conservative town, it might not be surprising to find concerned citizens debating plans to erect a nude sculpture by a local artist in the town square. The sculptor is no would-be Michelangelo but renowned Venice artist Robert Graham. And the neighborhood in a tizzy over his stainless-steel female torso was home to the most popular bare-it-all beach in the county until public nudity was banned in the mid-'70s.

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Now, 30 years later, some vocal Venice residents want a new ban on public nudity -- and this time the naked offender is a sculpture. Although only six appeals were filed, they could hold up the project for months or scrap it altogether. Last month, both sides were out in force at a hip sushi restaurant, where several dozen residents engaged in a heated discussion.

The discussion zeroed in on indecent exposure. Esquire Jauchem, a year Venice resident and producer of the annual street festival Venice Beach Carnevale, says banning any artwork in Venice would set a dangerous precedent. But on April 1, Pastor Steven Weller of the evangelical Venice Foursquare Church and members of the congregation gathered at Windward Circle to pray for the project to be canceled. The day also marked the deadline to file appeals with the city, and, in a move that wields more political clout than prayer does, Weller and five others not affiliated with the church filed letters asking the city Department of Public Works to deny the request for the required coastal development permit.

The idea of placing public art in Windward Circle dates back about two years. It was the dream of the late Diane Bush, a founder of the Venice Action Committee, launched in the s. She died in January. Bush approached entrepreneur Doumani, an art collector as well as her beachfront neighbor. King was consulting on a different project with the Windward Improvement District Assn.

Sokol became enthusiastic about the Windward Circle project and, under the auspices of his organization, an application was made to the city Department of Cultural Affairs on behalf of Doumani to donate the sculpture to Venice. Several public meetings were held in Venice, and the Cultural Affairs Commission approved the project before it went before the City Council, which approved the sculpture June Doumani seems undisturbed that the proposed work is dividing opinions.

Through a spokeswoman, Graham declined to comment. Pat Gomez, who oversees public art for the city Cultural Affairs Department, Venice nude women the project met with no resistance at her agency. She said the Venice nude women public meetings proved to the commission that there had been adequate opportunity for neighborhood input.

If you look at the But Lisa Ezell was among the many Venice residents complaining that they had not heard about the sculpture until after the city approved it.

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Three days later, Ezell began circulating a petition against the sculpture to various churches, including Foursquare. The discussion took on a feminist slant. Several vocal objectors complained that the proposed headless, armless woman represented a misogynistic symbol of anonymity, as well as violence against women. The objectors are not the first to charge Graham with degrading women.

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Walker, who had just completed a book and a film about female genital mutilation, was outraged. Instead of the torso, some would prefer a piece of art that represented an aspect of Venice history, such as a statue of founder Kinney. Arnold Springer defied the request for conservative attire for the public hearing -- showing up, as usual, in a dress.

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But this Venice bohemian urges residents to accept the inevitability of change. But Venice still attracts eccentrics and radicals and free thinkers and intellects and powerful, articulate people, though they come from different social strata than before. Despite delays and controversy, Doumani and Graham have no intention of withdrawing their donation. All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries.

Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. By Diane Haithman.

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