Patrick Scully, Mpls performance artist, concedes skinny-dipping legal battle

Scully is the Twin Cities leading pro-skinny dipping crusader.
Scully is the Twin Cities leading pro-skinny dipping crusader.

Longtime Twin Cities performance artist Patrick Scully dreams of a Minneapolis where the freedom to swim or sunbathe naked symbolizes "a culture that appreciates rather than fears the body."

But Hennepin County prosecutors want him to keep his appreciation of the birthday suit-clad human form away from public parks, beaches, and lakes. And in the end, Scully fought the law, but the law won.

Scully, 58, originally planned to challenge a ticket he received for skinny-dipping last July in Twin Lakes, but pleaded guilty yesterday after prosecutors filed additional misdemeanor indecent exposure and offensive conduct charges on Tuesday, the day before his trial was to begin. He received a suspended 60-day sentence and a fine of $378.

The Star Tribune reports that Scully and his attorney, Graham Ojala-Barbour, decided to accept a plea deal partly because being convicted of indecent exposure could lead to Scully being placed on the Minnesota Sex Offender Registry if there were subsequent convictions.

Scully said prosecutors' decision to add the two last-minute counts "felt vindictive."

Last week, Scully wrote an editorial for MPR where he explains why he believes our society should be more tolerant of nudity. He wrote:

Goosebumps or no, Scully would like to see more of this in area lakes.
Goosebumps or no, Scully would like to see more of this in area lakes.

For thousands of years we humans have removed our clothes to bathe naked in lakes and rivers. Since the glaciers receded from Minnesota 12,000 years ago, humans have enjoyed the waters of this land of lakes au naturel. Not so long ago, in very recent history, someone decided swimming suits were necessary. What happened?...

I think the change was driven by fear. The fear is based on a belief that naked equals sex, and sex is bad, and that naked is therefore bad. I believe that many unhealthy behaviors result from this flawed reasoning, ranging from eating disorders to sexual abuse. The repression of natural things encourages them to manifest sideways.

I now live in Minneapolis, where we do ourselves a great injustice by criminalizing nakedness and by reinforcing a culture of fear of the body. Instead we should embrace a culture of appreciation of the body. Such a culture would celebrate who we are, fostering thinking like Walt Whitman's: "I sing the body electric .... That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect." The potential of such a culture exhilarates me.

Despite yesterday's setback, Scully vows to keep fighting on behalf of the uncovered human form. In fact, he said he plans to create a new performance piece based on his court battle. Referencing the prosecutors' motion to bar him from discussing the skinny-dipping imbroglio in the media, he told the Strib the tentative title is "Naked and Gagged." Coming soon to a Twin Cities lake near you!

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