Denounced Over Faint Suggestion Of Nipple, Cherokee Street Mural Turns Critics Into Fans

Categories: Arts

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Danny Wicentowski
Is that a nipple?

Faring Purth's mural Prime sprawls across the south-facing wall of the Nebula Coworking building at the corner of Cherokee Street and Jefferson Avenue, but apparently its new neighbor, Family Dollar, threw a fit over an early version of the work.

The problem? Just a little hint of nipple.

"Family Dollar does not approve of the paintings being applied to the side of our leased premises," reads an e-mail sent to Jason Deem on February 19. Deem commissioned the mural, and his company, South Side Spaces, owns the Nebula building and leases space to Family Dollar. He provided Daily RFT with a copy of his tenant's hot-and-bothered missive that declared the mural "offensive."

See also: Artist Faring Purth Begins Massive Cherokee Street Mural; Detractors Call It Racist, Sexist

"It is offensive," the e-mail continues, "and does not reflect positively on the type of business we operate. Therefore, we are putting Landlord on notice of our position and reserve all rights afforded to us under the terms of the lease."

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Allison Babka
The mural's early outline elicited various knee-jerk objections, including that it showed some nipple.

Purth generally avoids getting involving in controversies around her own work, but she sounded off this week on the Brooklyn-based arts blog Brooklyn Street Art. There, she writes that Family Dollar threatened legal action over her work, claiming the almost-nipple was deterring customers.

Daily RFT spoke to a Family Dollar spokeswoman about the e-mail, but she said she wasn't familiar with the situation and declined to comment further.

However, Deem says, Family Dollar's tune changed dramatically as Purth added layer after layer of detail to Prime.

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Danny Wicentowski
"As the piece progressed, the nudity was partially covered and additional detail was added," Deem recalls. "Family Dollar felt that their concerns were addressed. Overall, Family Dollar was flexible and reasonable to work with through the process."

See also: PHOTOS: Faring Purth's Completed Cherokee Street Mural Is Haunting, Eerily Beautiful

But this wasn't the only time the early stage of Prime -- a black outline of a kneeling woman -- raised hackles among its Cherokee neighbors. While Family Dollar kvetched over the nipple, two local artists looked at the black female figure and perceived racist and sexist overtones. Both artists later offered retractions and apologies, and as Purth added to Prime, the rough outline became a work of intricate, melancholy grandeur.

But then city of St. Louis took its own turn: Two weeks ago, Deem received a notice from the City Building Division. It said the mural violated city code.

Continue to read how an inexperienced city inspector cited Purth's mural for unlicensed advertising.


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