The Cynical Side of Art Censorship

Before diving into art censorship, let’s ask ourselves, what is censorship? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, censorship is: “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Censorship can shelter citizens from reality and infringe on their rights. Below are some examples of art censorship.

In 2011, Facebook closed the account of Frédéric Durand without warning after he posted an image of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). For those not familiar with the painting, it showed a woman’s genitals.  Durand took it to French court and sued Facebook for violating his freedom of expression. After a 7 year battle, a French court ruled that Facebook was wrong to censor Courbet’s painting. However, the social media network did not pay the $25,000 in damages, due to the fact that he was using a pseudonym and opened up a new account on the same day his previous account was deleted.

Another example of art censorship involves low-level detainees at Guantánamo Bay and their artworks. 32 works of art by 8 detainees are now owned by the US government which were previously on exhibition at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The reason for this is that the US government suspects that their potential sale would go to supporting terrorist activities. This new policy is a no-win situation when ownership is taken away and barbaric, especially when the art poses no security threat.  

As you can see, censoring art does more harm than good. It makes society less accessible and open for citizens. Finally, in the words of Ai Weiwei (artist and activist), “words can be deleted, but the facts won’t be deleted with them.”

Works Cited:

Rea, Naomi. (2018, March 15). A French Court Rules Facebook was Wrong to Censor Gustave Courbet’s Provocative ‘Origin of the World’. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/facebook-censorship-gustave-courbet-1245458

Thompson, Erin. (2017, November 27). Art Censorship at Guantánamo Bay. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/opinion/guantanamo-art-prisoners.html

Toor, Amar. (2015, March 3). 19th Century Vagina Sparks French Lawsuit against Facebook. https://www.theverge.com/2015/3/6/8160721/facebook-censorship-vagina-painting-france-lawsuit

Rosenberg, Carol. (2017, December 1). U.S. Military May Archive Guantánamo Prison Art Rather than Burn It.  https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article186891663.html

(2018, February 1). Facebook to French Court: Nude Painting did not Prompt Account’s Deletion.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/01/facebook-nude-painting-gustave-courbet

(2015, May 3). Court to Rule that Facebook can be Judged in France in Vagina Painting Case. http://en.rfi.fr/americas/20150305-court-rule-facebook-s-can-be-judged-france-vagina-painting-case

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/censorship

How Many Greens Do You See?

Scorpio Moon With Sirius by Concetta Antico

Any one thought that the mutants in the X-Men series were cool?

What if I told you that there is this really cool mutation existing in today’s world called tetrachromacy. What is tetrachromacy? Tetrachromacy is “The condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information or possessing four types of cone cell in the eye.” Basically, a person has an extra cone that allows them to see the differences in colors that appear identical to others.

This type of condition has so far shown up only in women. Maureen Seaberb and Concetta Antico are the only two known functioning tetrachromats in America. Antico was tested positive for tetrachromacy in 2012, when her daughter was tested for colorblindness. Her perception for color allows her to excel at being a tetrachromat artist and oil-painting teacher, since she can see more than a trichromat. For more information you can check out her website at https://concettaantico.com/.

Maureen Seaberb is a journalist and author who finds matching tops and skirts a different shade to her. Seaberb has also had some disagreements over colors, such as rejecting 32 sample colors that were part of a house remodeling project.  She tested positive in 2013 after hearing about the subject on a Radiolab podcast.

So, could you be a tetrachromat? Had any recent arguments about an object being beet red?

Beyond Average Color Vision: An Interview with Tetrachromat Artist Concetta Antico. https://munsell.com/color-blog/tetrachromat-artist-concetta-antico/

Robson, David. (2014, September 5). The Woman with Superhuman Vision. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140905-the-women-with-super-human-vision

Lewis, Ricki. (2016, December 25). A Good Mutation: Seeing the World with Extra Cones https://www.raredr.com/contributor/ricki-lewis-phd/2016/12/a-good-mutation-seeing-the-world-with-extra-cones

Shearer, John. (2012, March). Tetrachromats. http://www.wonderfulcolors.org/blog/tetrachromats/

A New Change on the Horizon: Representation in Art Galleries

Raise your hand if you have ever been on an artwalk. Good. Now tell me: why are trans and queer artist of color, people with no BA’s, and people with disabilities left out of the picture, or not pushed to the forefront? Because the gallery owners are either rich, white, or male. Here are three galleries that are redefining the art world for the better with owners who are not rich, white, or male.

One of these art galleries is on the other side of the world, in the thriving metropolis of London. The gallery is called Sid Motion, which is also the name of the gallery owner and curator. The gallery opened up back in June 2016 with the intent “to bring a range of fresh vibrant artists working in different media to this new gallery space” as stated on the gallery’s website. For example, for her opening show she chose to exhibit a group of unsigned artists in the UK who work in various mediums. Her shows range from solo shows to two-­woman show and group shows. She presents a  spectrum of artists from the established artists to lesser­ known and difficult-­to­-track­-down artists. These exhibitions “aim to introduce a forum for conversation, education and development.”

Back on the West Cost, there is the Ori Gallery that “seeks to reclaim and redefine ‘the white cube’ through amplifying the voices of Trans and Queer Artists [sic] of color, community organization and mobilization through the arts”, as stated on the gallery’s website. Co­-directors Maya Vivas (ceramic/performance artist) and Leila Haile (tattooer and community organizer) are not fazed by “limiting” those who can participate in the space. The most marginalized identity is being reflected and, unlike most galleries, they are being direct about it. Since they opened last February the gallery has been seen eight exhibitions that directly connect back to the gallery’s goal. So far, the gallery has done group exhibitions such as Emergent, which featured eleven young queer /trans /artists of color and two­-person exhibitions such as Linoleum Flowers . These exhibitions show the work as is and leave the “diversity representation” behind which connects to one of the gallery’s goals to “hold institutional power.”

Finally, the Wolff Gallery, run by Shannon O’Connor and Zemie Barr (visual artist themselves) seeks to “broaden the Portland art scene by prioritizing the exhibition of work by traditionally underrepresented artists.” These include exhibitions that focus on being “dedicated to a feminist, collaborative organizational model.” This means “rejecting certain things women have been told to believe.” Their grand opening, Now I am Myself exemplified this specifically through five female photographers, and focused on eliminating the male gaze and leaving the viewer with non-sexualized subjects. The five artists used softness and vulnerability in their works to shift the narrative and communicate strength.

As you can see, these newfound galleries challenge the status quo and make the viewer question society as a whole. These types of independent galleries are being brought to the forefront to instill curiosity and thought in this chaotic world. Therefore, the world is in a dawn and it is up to the owners/directors of these galleries to make a difference in society.

Notable Mentions:
Access Gallery
Medium Tings

Works Cited:
Skidmore, Maisie. (2016, October 10) A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an Art Gallery. http://www.anothermag.com/art­photography/9154/a­beginners­guide­to­opening­an­art­gallery

McCann, Fiona. (2018, January 30). A New North Portland Gallery Gives Space to Queer and Trans Artists of Color. https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2018/1/30/ a­new­north­portland­gallery­gives­space­to­queer­and­trans­artists­of­color

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, April 12). Now One Called Koons “Masculinist Art”.
https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/04/12/no­one­called­koons­masculinist­art/

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female Artists. Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female
Artists. https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/09/07/portlands­-newest-­gallery­is-­only-representing­-female­-artists/

Women Taking Down the Street Art Boys Club

Forget Banksy for a second and let’s focus our attention on the women taking on the male dominate world of street art. Here are 5 female street artists making headlines and giving new meaning to street art.

American artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, known for her wheat pasting, is also an activist and humanitarian. Her projects/work include: Konbit Shelter, which helps to rebuild communities in Haiti and the Braddock Tiles project that enables local employment and arts training in North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Shamsia Hassani, who is the first female Afghani graffiti/street artist, is also a associate professor of sculpture at Kabul University. Her art depicts women as “strong, independent figures.” The figures can be seen with musical instruments, inside of which they either play or carry, and which act as a vehicles for self­-expression.

Nina Wright, aka Girl Mobb, who hails from Oakland, California, creates work that expands on the theme of “urban girly grotesque,” where her figures display their hairy legs as they lounge. She has been doing graffiti since she was a teenager in her rural hometown in Ohio. When she moved to Oakland, although she found community through street art, she also found herself as the only female in her crew,  This lead her to create a graffiti camp for girls to hopefully shift the gender imbalance in street art. Her graffiti camp proved such a success when she launched it 2017 she has since been asked to bring the camp to other cities around the country.

Vexta is an artist from Australia whose theme gravitates towards feminine forms that are painted with bright colors. Her thoughts on inequality in the street art world: “Often you’re [sic] doing a project there’ll be the inclusion of one girl. Or people go to the other extreme and make it all girls. There’s no middle ground, which to me highlights the inequality.”

As you can see, many of these artists focus on inequality in the art field and society. These artists want to be considered on the basis of their works alone, and not their gender, for this to happen there needs to be a change.

Other notable mentions:
ELLE
Bambi
Lady Pink
Clare Rojas
Maya H
Olek
Lady Aiko


Work Cited:
Ryzik, Melena. (2014, Aug 6) Life Wonderment: Swoon Blurs the Line Between Art and Activism. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/arts/design/swoon­-blurs­-The­-line­-between­-art­-and­-activism.html

Burke, Sarah. (2017, Aug 14) Dismantling the Street Art Boys Club at an All ­ Girls Graffiti Camp. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjj5yq/dismantling-­street­-art-patriarchy­-graffiti-­camp­-girls

Henry, Roland. (2015, Jan 7) Meet the woman redefining street art. Retrieved from https://amp.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jan/07/street­-art­women-elle­-swoon­-vexta

Graham ­ Harrison, Emma (2012, Feb 24) Art in the Streets of Kabul. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/24/graffiti­-street­-art­-kabul

Suing Public Art?

Yes, a billboard company actually sued the city of Portland back in 1998. In order to understand the law before 1998, one has to understand that in 1986, Portland exempted murals from billboard advertising restrictions. This meant that the murals were not regulated as signs and were seen as art. The reason why Clear Channel Communications (Portland’s largest billboard company) sued the city was because content-based regulation of speech was unconstitutional. With this change in law, it made murals almost impossible.

Fast forward to 2004, the city’s mural sign codes were being challenged by Joe Cotter and other artists. The result of this fight was the Public Art Murals Program that is administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. At the time, Clear Channel took the city back to court and argued that the program was unconstitutional. This unfortunately brought it back to the previous court ruling.

In 2009, the court ruled that murals exist as an art form. With a new mural policy in place all a muralist needs to do is pay $250 for a city permit or go through the RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council), get permission from a building owner and notify the neighbors. Murals may be dropped from the sign codes, but still have regulations and have to meet certain requirements.

Work Cited:
Hu,Ev. (2009,July 16) Muralists ready to tackle the
big picture. Retrieved from
https​ ://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/200
9/07/muralists_ready_to_tackle_the.html
Jenniges,Amy. (2005,December 29) Standing Up for Art: Mural Painter Intervenes in Clear
​ Channel Lawsuit. Retrieved from
https://www.portlandmercury.com/news/standing-up-for-art/Content?oid=35807