By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Those sexually-explicit little devils at the heart of controversy in Clovis have been distributed all over the country, with more than 100,000 copies sold, according to the wife of the artist who made them.
Ruth Waytz said her husband, Chris “Coop” Cooper, has sold or licensed more than 2 million nude devil stickers in all during the past decade. Until a Clovis man was recently cited for distribution of sexually oriented materials to minors for displaying the 4-by-6-inch stickers on his car, Waytz said the stickers had not been the subject of criminal allegations.
“This has come as a great shock to us,” Waytz said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
Dean Young, 31, of Clovis is scheduled to appear in magistrate court Friday morning for a pretrial hearing. The hearing will determine if his case will be bound over for the district court or tried in magistrate court.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Waytz said Young’s run-in with area law enforcement is a clear case of First-Amendment infringement.
“First of all, bumper stickers have been proved already to be protected under the First Amendment,” Waytz said. “This is freedom of expression, freedom of speech in its absolutely most basic form.”
But Clovis law officers disagree.
Prosecutor Chris Chandler said he was hesitant to pursue the case at first, until he saw the images.
“Once you look at the picture it obviously depicts a sexual act. That’s far beyond what is depicted on the mudflaps truckers have,” Chandler said.
The stickers depict one devil with its mouth around another’s tail, which may suggest oral sex, according to a Dec. 12 police report.
Therefore, Chandler said Young’s images are in violation of the law.
Law enforcement officials have plenty of supporters. Lance Clemmons, pastor of Clovis’ First Presbyterian Church, said the stickers appear to depict oral sex and shouldn’t be posted in public.
“The second that you put something out into the public like that … it then becomes public, unless you keep your car in your garage or on your property,” Clemmons said after viewing the image online Tuesday. “It’s not something my children need to be seeing as we drive down the street.”
Clemmons said all citizens have First Amendment rights to free expression, but there are certain forms of expression that our culture has deemed out of bounds. He said sexually-explicit material is out of bounds.
The case has sparked a discussion of First Amendment freedoms on Internet Web logs across the country and in coffee shops around the community.
Cooper wrote in an e-mail this week that those who react to his work do so according to their own prejudices.
“I create my art for my own reasons, and I prefer to let the final product speak for itself,” he wrote. “When someone buys a piece of my art, I assume that they do it for their own reasons as well, and I respect that. If someone sees my work as filthy or pornographic, that has more to do with their own prejudices and hang-ups than any intent on my part.”
Peter Simonson, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the ordinance Young allegedly violated requires the individual to affirmatively peddle pornography or sexual material to a child. He said Young showed no intent to distribute sexual material, so no ordinance was violated.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that the application of the ordinance in the way that (Young) was cited, appears to be unconstitutional,” Simonson said. “We feel pretty confident that it was a misinterpretation of that ordinance.”
He said the ACLU will be watching the case closely as it develops.
Who is Chris Cooper?
• The artist who draws, licenses and sells stickers of devil girls is known simply as Coop in the art community. Throughout his career he has produced custom poster work for bands like Nirvana, the Ramones, The Sex Pistols and others. His images have appeared on T-shirts, in commercials, on Zippo lighters and even in an illustrated book called “The Devil’s Advocate.” His most recent art exhibit in Los Angeles featured a 78-foot long multi-panel painting that sold for $78,000.
Source: The contemporary art gallery Sixspace where Coop shows his work.