Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Architectural Studies Department Stan Mathews is a key figure in a non-fiction book recently released. “Framing Innocence,” written by Lynn Powell, is the true story of a woman from Oberlin, Ohio, who was arrested for taking pictures of her child in the shower. Stan and his wife, Professor of Art Pat Mathews, who is also mentioned in the book, lived in Oberlin at the time.
“She faced the loss of her kid and 16 years in prison for photos we’ve probably all taken. I got involved early on. I was outraged, but alarmed that no one was really doing anything constructive to stop the prosecution,” Stan Mathews explains.
Working with neighbors who had at first initiated a defense fund and then moved on to phone calls, e-mails and other active opposition of the prosecution of the woman, Cynthia Stewart, Mathews organized a national media campaign “to expose what was going on.”
He worked behind the scenes, sending out press releases and exposés, giving names and facts. While he started local, he then went regional, then national. He notes, eventually, NPR, USA Today, and other national outlets picked up the story.
Stan Mathews recalls, “The pressure intensified on the local DA. His case fell apart; the whole thing had to be dismissed, under enormous media pressure.”
In the book, the author recalls reading a headline about the case: “Child May be Taken from Mom” in the Chronicle-Telegram and describes the ensuing rallying of neighbors and supporters.
Powell writes, “We were, on the whole, a forty-something crowd: mostly parents of children around Nora’s age, with a few college students, Unitarians, and politics professors sprinkled in. Many of us had been involved in political causes in the past, though our political skills hadn’t been exercised much in the years of building careers, paying mortgages and raising kids. But the headline in Wednesday’s Chronicle-Telegram had frightened everyone, and one couple had already taken action. Stan Mathews, an architect, and his wife Pat, an art professor, had already drawn up a petition calling for Greg White to ‘cease and desist prosecution’ in Ohio v. Stewart and declaring that the undersigned were ‘outraged by the Loraine County Prosecutor’s relentless pursuit of unwarranted felony obscenity charges against Ms. Stewart.’ Everyone agreed the petition was a good idea. We passed around a sign-up sheet for distributing it around town.”
Stan Mathews joined the HWS faculty in 2000. He received his B.A. from Beloit College, his M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his Master of Architecture from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He also attended the School of Architecture at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. He is the author of “From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price.”
A mathematics major before switching to art history, Pat Mathews received her B.A. from the University of Houston and her Ph.D. from UNC, Chapel Hill. She specializes in women’s studies in art history, 19th and 20th century women artists and critical theory. Pat Mathews previously held a longtime post at Oberlin College.