Editor’s Note: The county commission reversed its decision, deciding to leave the paintings uncovered, on Aug. 27, 2019.
PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Van Buren County commissioners voted this week to cover up two paintings in the courthouse that judges argue are not appropriate.
A painting of a bare-chested woman in the rotunda will be covered with banner showing the county seal. A second painting in a courtroom will covered with a piece of cloth.
Chief Judge Kathleen Brickley petitioned county commissioners to cover the art, saying the nudity and violence depicted in the paintings are not appropriate for the building.
“These murals represent the very type of humiliating acts and discipline the judiciary must and should avoid. … to have paintings of bare-breasted women in a courthouse displays a lack of respect for women, and for men who respect women,” Brickley wrote.
Circuit Judge David DiStefano, District Judge Michael McKay and District Judge Arthur Clarke III also signed Chief Judge Brickley’s request.
>>PDF: Judges’ memo on murals
Local historian Robert Hindenach said he is related to the artist, Paw Paw native Frank Lewis Van Ness. The 111-year-old painting in the rotunda is signed by Van Ness and he is believed to have worked on others in the building.
“That was the type of art they had at that time and I think that was fairly common,” Hindenach said. “It’s just to me kind of amazing that all of the sudden today it’s a problem.”
County officials decided it was not possible to remove the murals without damaging them.
“It’s just like seeing an old historic building in town being taken down or something, you always feel bad about it because you think this is a part of what we are,” Hindenach said.
It is still unclear exactly when the murals will be covered up.