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Nudes expose Seattle's modesty

Statue design sparks uproar

SEATTLE -- Stuart Smailes was a jolly, potbellied man, proudly gay, with a walrus mustache and a passion for Broadway shows, merry-go-rounds, and calliopes, his friends say.

But most of all, he was an art buff -- so much of a buff that he left a $1 million bequest for a fountain sculpture to the City of Seattle, with an unusual stipulation: It had to include a naked man.

''He was adamant that he wanted the nude figure," said one of his best friends, Tom Luhnow. ''Stu loved classical sculptures of nude males, and he really wanted to provoke a discussion about art."

Or, as his lawyer, Tim Bradbury, put it: ''Stu wanted to push the envelope."

Smailes has succeeded in that goal.

The Seattle Art Museum recently announced that it would use the Smailes bequest for a fountain titled ''Father and Son," created by Louise Bourgeois, a Frenchborn New York sculptor. It depicts a man and a boy, both nude with a transparent cloak of gushing water, reaching toward each other.

The work is one of several pieces to be installed in the city's 8.5-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park, scheduled to open next year.

Museum officials say the sculpture is profound.

Bourgeois, 94, and internationally renowned, ''took the classical subject matter of mother and child, and turned it on its ear," said Lisa Corrin, the chief curator at the museum.

Others see it less positively.

''A thinly-veiled homage to pedophilia," said John Carlson, a conservative talk radio host in Seattle who was the Republican candidate for governor in 2000.

The museum says the sculpture planned for Seattle has no indication of sexual arousal.

''To look at these figures and see something inappropriate, you'd have to have a very prurient mind," said Corrin. ''It's simply not there."

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