Sunday, May 24, 2009

Censorship

This is a piece I did for an invitational. The theme was color. I chose the colors indigo and blue. This is the blue piece.  The parameters were very specific for this show. I was given a paint swatch to match my colors against, 75% of the piece had to be said color, and all the works in the show were required to be the same height, for consistency. In the end 1/3 of the participating artists either didn't pay any attention to the parameters, or just blew them off… Charming. I'm so glad I did all that work, and spent the money on -x- size canvas etc.

So, now that I’ve set the mood...

I will start by saying I respect the curator of this show immensely. The curator was a victim of the situation and nothing more. No blame or frustration should be or is placed there. 

The situation was that this show took place in a public pedestrian space, specifically an underground concourse where mostly office workers travel to and from other buildings or parking garages. For those of you in Oklahoma City, you will be familiar with, the underground, this art space is also overseen by a private committee.

I started this piece with an inkling that I might have problems, but I can hold my head high and say… that’s never stopped me! However, before I turned the art in I emailed images to the curator. Just a, "hey, here are my pieces, see you soon!" sort of heads up. I wasn't surprised when she replied to me that, the breasts might pose a problem. We talked on the phone, and although the curator was willing to take on the issue with the higher ups I decided to simply let this one go. 

It does rub me the wrong way that this show had such detailed parameters as mentioned above, and yet nowhere did they state the there was any sort of subject restraint. Was this something I was supposed to assume? Well I didn't, and I won't ever make that assumption.

There is a time and a place to fight and this wasn’t it.  I have my reasons for choosing to not stand up for my own principals and paint out a beautiful pair of breasts. One reasons is that I did this piece especially for that show. I wasn't going to show it anywhere else and therefore it made no since to have it excluded. You may scoff at how quickly I bent over on the issue, but as I said I respected the curator and didn’t feel that making trouble would be productive, efficient or effective. However, it certainly did put the issue into the forefront of my mind.

I am working on a nude now, and will be starting another soon; I haven’t yet decided how nude to make them… they will both be much more realistic than the blue piece above, and both could be full frontal, if I so choose. I will make the decision based on how valid the nudity is to the subject and the overall mood of each piece… these sorts of decisions happen in process so, no predictions here.

It is hard to completely push the trouble with nudes from my mind and my creative process. Lots of galleries will tell you that nudes are hard to sell, and lots of galleries will simply refuse to take them. I know this from experience. And as you can tell from above, they are in general hard to show. Especially in the market I am currently working.

It really amazes me. First of all we all look at nudes in art all the time… there are bare breasts all over the art deco and nouveau buildings here in downtown Tulsa. I use that example because Tulsa, like OKC is in the bible belt, which I do think figures into the argument. Classical art has the human form all over it… true, often conveniently draped, which drives me crazy. Are we really still too uptight to enjoy the breasts above? Sadly yes. If breasts are such an issue, what about pubic hair, and what if I wanted to paint a male nude? Can I sell a penis? All I can say is I will do my best to not let this subjugation of our own bodies deter me from making the art I want to make, and next time, I will stand up for my breasts, etc. 

2 comments:

Justin said...

A-the-fuck-men!

Dave said...

Here, here. I've had spaces either reject or "hide" pieces in less visible locations of a gallery space simply due to nudity. The nude figure in art is like a steak in a butcher shop... it's intrinsic. It's studied by artists for its beauty, and its direct connection to the human form, to our lives and to life itself. Nudity is way over-rated in the U.S. to start with. This harsh puritan influence has stripped away artists' right to expression (in all media) and to the study of the human form as our creator made it, a beauty that's inherent at nature's core. Those who do not wish to view nudes are more than welcome to pass it by move along to the paintings of some inanimate object. However, just because the nude is somehow (an most often incorrectly) found offensive to some doesn't mean that it is so to the rest of the audience or the industry a work is intended for. So if you don't want to see it, keep moving, and let those who appreciate the beauty of the human body do so, including all those parts that every human has. How can something so common be so offensive? It would seem to me we should all cherish this skin in all forms and representation. This skin enables the miracle and the genesis of life itself... without which, none of us would exist.

A fellow artist... www.artisticperson.com