Junkman Jailed

Is outsider art a crime?


Alan Davis, 47, says he's a political prisoner. The Florida artist spent more than a decade refusing the Seminole County authorities' demands that he clean up his yard, which until November was cluttered with airplane and auto parts, wood and metal and fiberglass, fire extinguishers and household fixtures and barrels. Davis used the materials to make his art, which includes statues, assemblages, and conceptual pieces. Among the latter: an assortment of crappers titled Your Constitutional Rights Going Down the Toilet.

Then the sheriff's office expropriated it all to sell at auction, a jury found Davis guilty of felony littering, and Judge Gene Stephenson sentenced him to a year and a day in jail, telling him his actions have "torn at the moral fiber of the community, of the state." Many of Davis' neighbors testified against him at his trial, and some were active in trying to shut down his workshop before then. Jan Schmidt, who lived three doors from Davis, had launched a petition to force the man dubbed the Florida Junkman to clean up his yard, arguing that it was depressing property values and that it intimidated her.

Since his imprisonment, Davis has vowed to sue the county employees who removed his property, accusing them of trespassing and theft.