Original story: So this is Christmas? Artist’s non-yule work censored from Con Ed gallery

Original story: So this is Christmas? Artist’s non-yule work censored from Con Ed gallery

A Park Slope artist says her nature-centric woodcarving exhibit got tossed from a corporate art space in Downtown because it’s not “Christmas-appropriate.”

Judith Z. Miller — who says she explores spiritual themes by carving animals into tree trunks — has been forced to remove her art from the lobby of a Con Edison building on Flatbush Avenue after workers complained that it lacks holiday spirit.

“Employees demand a festive lobby … during the Christmas holidays,” curator Leon Kalas wrote to Miller in an e-mail, demanding she pack up her wooden doves and dragons.

But Miller — who is Jewish by birth and Pagan by approach — contends that she never agreed to showcase holiday-themed art.

She also claims that Kalas and his corporate honchos broke a contract, then gave her the boot because she rejected the Santa-and-sleigh bells aesthetics of a suburban strip mall.

“They’re making an assumption that Christmas is for everybody,” she said. “It’s so offensive.”

Miller agreed months ago to exhibit her work at the building near Fulton Street — where local artists showcase monthly exhibits free of rent.

She hoped the exposure would help her sell some of her art — which looks vaguely Native American and was featured at the boathouse in Prospect Park for months. She chose the month of December because it’s gift-giving season, then signed a contract stipulating only that the pieces would not be “pornographic or religious” — but made no other promises in terms of content.

On Dec. 1, she moved her carvings into the lobby — but discovered that a large fake Christmas tree had taken up half the wall space.

She got an e-mail from Kalas the same day demanding she take it down — pronto. “Your exhibit has been cancelled,” he wrote. “[Con Edison] has the right to ask for a festive look during the holidays.”

He noted her art must gone by Dec. 7 — or Con Edison would make him toss it.

A spokeswoman for Con Edson did not respond by press time, noting only, “We are looking into this.”

But Kalas, himself an artist who once claimed to be censored back in 2007, said the exhibit is in fact being removed because it’s a “safety hazard.”

He said wooden sticks from the art “poke out” of the wall and “could injure employees,” adding Miller is making a fuss for the purposes of self-promotion.

“She is a sick, disturbed woman,” he said. “I gave her the space out of the goodness of my heart.”

But Miller sure doesn’t think of it as gift — “Holiday season” or otherwise.

“It just feels wrong,” she said, adding Brooklyn is full of folks who don’t sing songs about Rudolph or hang socks full of chocolate. “Why does everything always have to be about Christmas?”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

OK, so maybe it’s not a yule log, but it’s art.
Photo by Judith Z. Miller