Why is this artist’s work “too controversial” for an art center exhibition?


Paul Carter/The Register-Guard

As a dues-paying member of the Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR, Linda Cunningham prepared a piece of work for the monthly members’ show. The “pastoral” works of other members were accepted without incident, but Cunningham’s three-dimensional piece was deemed “too controversial” and rejected by the executive board of the Art Center, according to The Register-Guard

The piece conveys Cunningham’s response to recent school shootings, in particular the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT in December 2012. It features Dick-and-Jane-type illustrations and wording in a frame filled with used ammunition casings.

Though her first reaction was dismissal of the board’s action, now Cunningham is speaking out against the action of the board: “This is just plain censorship. At first I got mad, and then I tried to laugh it off. Then I thought, ‘Wait, this is important to me — this is censorship of my art.’”

Naturally, representatives of the art center do not feel the decision constitutes censorship (hint: they never do), saying instead that the exhibit “tries to steer away from controversy.” Case in point, the rest of the art is tame: “Everything else in this show is much more mild — very pastoral,” said art center coordinator Paula Goodbar.

The art center, as a private entity, may choose what it displays, but as Cunningham pointed out, her piece did not even violate the center’s policy on “inappropriate” works. Inappropriate meaning, in this case: “denigration or hate of religion, race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual orientation; graphic or offensive nudity; explicit sex; promotion of terrorism or violence; and offensive bodily function related art.”

The problem is, galleries are becoming more and more gun-shy when it comes to artwork that is anything other than purely decorative.  Art that conveys ideas that people care about would inevitably bring people to respond: this is what art is supposed to do! The Center is doing a disservice not only to its members but to ts own position as a relevant
cultural institution by limiting the work permitted to be put on display to rosebuds and hedges. How pleasant.

About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
This entry was posted in Acacia O'Connor: Author and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why is this artist’s work “too controversial” for an art center exhibition?

  1. CFB says:

    Reblogged this on lit!.

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