The topic of censorship has come up for me recently. Let’s just say that a nude I did with her boobies showing, combined with the phrases ” it is very inappropriate” and “families read this publication” happened. Although I knew this would probably be the case I thought, maybe, just maybe they’d be cool. This was not the case.
The first time I got one of my nude paintings censored, so to speak, was at Laguna Beach High School when my teacher hung it in the art room. I came back the next day to find a string of toilet paper across the area where the lone nipple was visible. I guess the principle said he didn’t want the 9th grade boys to get too “excited”. At my high school back in Ann Arbor, they showed my nude pieces quite often, as well as the Ann Arbor Art Association, so this was a new thing for me. After all, the mascot for Laguna Beach HS was the “Artists”. Later, I was told it could not be published in the high school year book — even though my teacher pushed for it — again it was deemed inappropriate. We had a major meth epidemic at Laguna Beach HS that was never addressed, but you can’t go showing students a nipple.
When I moved to Dana Point for my senior year, same problems, different school. My nude works were banned from being shown in the common areas of the school in display cases. They were inappropriate. I found this hilarious, when you consider we had at least 3 teen parents at our school; two girls were currently knocked up, and I took one of the cheerleaders to buy a pregnancy test so she could take it my house without her parents finding out. So yes, representations of titties in acrylic were to be censored, despite the fact many students CLEARLY knew how bang some genitals together to make a baby!
A gallery in Dana Point also asked me not to show my nudes because “it wasn’t Christian”, so you know, all those nude works by Renaissance artists must be smut over in Vatican City. She was concerned because I was a 17 year old girl doing these paintings of naked women and I painted their nipples different colors. She was also incredibly annoyed the sexy lingerie store next door shared her parking lot. They sold, “leather undergarments” you guys!
The final straw was when I tried to curate a group show at Artcore in downtown Los Angeles. It was to be me, Tara McPherson, Louie Metz, Staci Lande, and a few others. The woman who ran the gallery didn’t want nudity. A downtown Los Angeles gallery, not wanting nudity? The board members tried to reason with her, but it was no use. This was on top of many other conditions she decided to set, like no satire and no sarcasm. That show didn’t happen, obviously.
It was strange to me, all these galleries in Laguna Beach and even Los Angeles refusing to show nudes, because they were inappropriate and indecent; and yet the people who set out these rules loved works by Botticelli and Michelangelo. I started drawing nudes when I was eleven years old! So what does that mean? I grew up with a lot of nude artwork in our home, and no, it didn’t turn me into a deviant. I did that on my own, thank you very much!
Up until now the last bit of censorship I had was in 2009. NBC Washington was promoting the show I had at Art Whino Gallery. They used the image of this painting below, but instead of putting a black bar across the nipples, they put a dark purple bar across them! Hey, at least whoever was told to do it had a sense of humor. I still don’t get why NBC didn’t just use another image, but hey, it was pretty funny!
I know the Instagram police take down any artwork with nipples showing. I think only recently was it ruled that a representation of nipples was okay, but that doesn’t stop the strangest of people from reporting or flagging the content; and I’m guessing those are the same people who claim to be art lovers? It’s also the same people who get offended by everything (which seems more often these days online). I think we can all agree there are more important things going on in this big wide world we should be offended by.
I’m curious to know how other people have had their work censored? Was it a gallery, print publication, or something else?
2 thoughts on “Ceci n’est pas une Nipple”
I helped organize a photography show in a cafe a few years ago, and one of the images was a maternity nude. The woman was nearly all in shadow, but it was still clear that she was nude. The owner of the cafe was fine with the photo, but of course some of the patrons were not. Eventually we had to take it down. For the people who can’t separate nudes from porn, I can only imagine how confusing and traumatic taking a shower must be.
I’m currently re-exploring this and expecting/hoping for backlash. I painted a nude of a comic book character (long time ago), a female hero. I was asked why I didn’t cover her up by patrons. Simple answer, I didn’t want too. A comic shop wanted it but ask if I’d cover her up, I refused. It represented a strong woman and that came out better as a nude instead of a minimally dressed woman. I’ve had other immature comments by older men mostly (like “wowie”). I intended on exploring nudes again we’ll see the reaction (I’m assuming ill experience something similar).