Censored Once Again

hortense-swore                                                                            Hortense Swore

I recently was asked to participate in an Art in the Chambers exhibition featuring the work of instructors from the community college where I teach.  The paintings, sculptures and photographs would be displayed in the Orange County Commission in downtown Orlando.  I submitted slides for the promotion of the show and for review by a public arts board.  My work (shown in this blog) was excluded from the show a few days before its opening.  I was told by my contact that my work had been deemed “too provocative”.  I found this odd as I had selected my least provocative work for this show.

forbidden love 2                                                                                      Forbidden Love

My work has been censored once before, but I understood why in that instance.  I was asked to display my narrative figure paintings in the lobby of a theater on campus, and some of them featured nudes.  Theater goers protested, and I was asked to remove the work.  I wasn’t happy, but could understand the objections.

The Results 2

The Results

But this latest act of censorship leaves me confused.  How innocuous and/or content free must my work be before it is deemed safe for public consumption?  I know that these four  paintings would be deemed aesthetically naive and inoffensive in the northeast.  Most people in central Florida who look at my recent work understand its humorous intent and are amused.  Some are bored and dismissive.  I haven’t been accosted yet by an outraged arts patron at an opening.  So what’s the big deal?

Perhaps my next move, if I want a public exhibition in central Florida, will be a new series in which I paint geometric abstractions.  Maybe I could go the Robert Ryman route and make white on white paintings.  I’ll have to be careful, however.  Who knows how inventive my censors will be as they stare at a surface with minimal tones, colors, and flat brushwork?  Maybe they’ll find a nude or two lurking within a cloud of white paint.  Maybe they’ll find political content in the impasto.  As I never know how people will react to my work, so I’ll never fully understand how far some folks will go to find offense.

outings 3

Outings in the Country With Father

At the end of the day I know that none of this really matters, and the folks who have just excluded my work aren’t worth the effort to please or persuade.  I make my work for my amusement and for the pleasure of a few friends.  As the old song goes, “No, no, they can’t take that away from me.”  At least not yet.

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6 thoughts on “Censored Once Again

  1. In this day and age you just never know. I was once told what we could not show in a National Museum to children under 12 yrs of age. Their parents would be upset if we showed painting with dark colours, too depressing, nudes, pornographic, violence, scary for the kids, anything religious, proselytizing. I asked what can I show, a flower vase was the answer. The funny thing, teacher comes in and ask specifically to be shown anything from La Renaissance, most of which is Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, gee what can you do.

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    • There was a fair amount of graphic imagery from the Renaissance (Corregio’s nymph paintings, the Massacre of the Innocents by Raphael)…This reminds me of the Victorian Bible wherein all the naughty passages were edited out so that the young ones wouldn’t be corrupted.

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      • I had parents demand that some works of art from masters of the Baroque be removed immediately from the walls of our National Gallery, as they consider the art degenerate. Reminded me of 1933. I told them it had been tried in Europe 80 yrs ago with no success, it went right over their heads.

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  2. Uncle Adolph and his ilk were very concerned about degenerate work. It may be the further “right-ing” of the 4th Reich? Anyway, the work is unusual and innovative and I like it. And whether or not folks take to it, to thyne own self be true. No statues were ever erected to those that played it safe. But I can also understand if your feelings were hurt so give it time old pal. Be well. Love and Peace. And lets get together.

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    • This is probably less of a right wing thing, and more of a narrow-minded, let’s not offend the public thing. Art apparently is meant to decorate a wall, not to raise questions or even make people laugh.

      I’m more annoyed than upset right now. I understand that there’s always someone out there who will find a problem with my work, and that problem is their problem.

      Thanks for the words of consolation, and yes, let’s get together (Why am I thinking about my crush on Haley Mills when I was nine…yeah,yeah, yeah.).

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  3. Larry: That’s truly sad as they’re complaining about some of the best art ever created, and especially ignorant and closed minded since some of this art hung in churches in the 1600s. It’s odd to consider that our ancestors who believed in spirits and magic, who burned “witches” and engaged in rampant religious persecution were in some ways more enlightened when it came to art than average folks today.

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