How Naked is “Too Naked”?

Artspace Jackson Flats galleries question censorship and art

Illustrator: Katie Heywood

“Did you know that (CENSORED) (CENSORED) (CENSORED) (CENSORED) flying pigs (CENSORED) (CENSORED) (CENSORED) kumquats (CENSORED) (CENSORED)?” This quote greeted all visitors to Artspace Jackson Flats in the past few weeks. Back in February, disagreements over displays of nude artwork sparked a conversation about art and censorship.

The exhibit “Censored; Artists Respond” was on display for three Sundays in March. The Yellow Gallery contained works that were self-censored by the artists, including depictions of women with no nipples, blurred bodies, and even a dog with censored mammary glands.

Just across the hall, the Gray Gallery had the offensive content on display. Naked women covered the walls, but it did not feel pornographic. One photograph showed a nude model covered in paint, while others were black and white with distorted bodies.

The paintings were gorgeous. There was one portrait of a woman bathed in sunlight with streaks of blue and purple in her hair, another that was more abstract showing a woman in the shower with an exposed spine. The myriad bright colors made the canvases seem warm and cheerful, rather than grotesque and uncomfortable.

One of the most interesting pieces was the statue dubbed “Porn Girl.” The artist, Christi Fumas, took hundreds of photos of women’s faces and pasted them all over a mannequin on its knees. Inspired by sex workers, she pays homage to them “because each woman on her knees has a moment where she knows her client has just erased her identity in order to get off.”

Among the artwork, other quotes about censorship decorated the walls. However, the most provocative quote was in an artist’s statement. In Benjamin Wuest’s modern recreation of Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” he poses an important question: “Why should classical artwork featuring the nude figure be deemed appropriate for all ages but contemporary work considered pornographic?” In today’s increasingly body-positive environment, artists are still looking to bridge that gap.