City attorney says no to ‘Last Supper’
The separation of church and state has made its way to the lake.
Artist Vernon Lee of South Lake Tahoe discovered the delicate balance when he was asked by the city Tuesday to remove his version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” from the Senior Center, a move that angered many seniors.
It’s a city-owned facility – one the 72-year-old retired building contractor often has frequented over the last decade at South Shore.
Parks staffer Gary Moore said he was responding to a complaint. He took the matter to City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo to evaluate whether it violated the First Amendment.
“Anything that can be perceived as a government endorsement of religion and is easily identifiable,” DiCamillo explained.
If the artwork was displayed during a private function, it would be allowable.
“I was disappointed, but I don’t want to conflict with the city,” Lee said Wednesday.
Two weeks ago, Lee added the 3-by-6-foot oil painting he donated to the center to his eight others.
“I was going to rename it the ‘last senior lunch,'” he said, pointing out another painting – “The Sermon on the Mound” – which also hangs in the center.
“They didn’t see this one,” he said.
Some seniors don’t share Lee’s humorous take on the removal.
“I’m saddened to see the beautiful painting removed,” Irma Roughton said.
Marge Klug nodded.
“We all enjoyed it,” she said.
“It wasn’t hurting anyone,” Al Jackson said.
His wife, Theresa Quartermain-Jackson, said she would have liked the seniors who go to the center to be asked if they wanted the art removed.
“No one knows who the snitch is,” she said.
City Manager Dave Jinkens reminded those who use public facilities they may need to ask before hanging up artwork.
Dave Russo questioned how Christmas trees are acceptable.
Both Jinkens and Moore said that matter has been discussed by the city. Some justify it by calling it a holiday tree, a social symbol of the recognized day.
“This is one of those few places seniors can display their work,” Russo said.
Lee has other ideas.
“The Last Supper,” Lee-style, will be on display for the Tahoe Art League’s 40th birthday bash on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Lake Tahoe Community College.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com