This is one of three pieces I submitted to a local art show at a bar. A place serving craft beer and cocktails. After dropping off my pieces I headed off to work, excited that I would be showing work at a new location in an postcode in which I had previously done really well.
And then I got an uncomfortable phone call. Unfortunately, my pieces were deemed too “adult” for the environment in which they would be hanging. Too adult for one of the few spaces in which you must be 18+ to even cross the threshold.
At first I was irate, “Is the Venus Di Milo pornographic, then? Should we need ID to see David in Florence? Are women’s bodies only sexual? Is your mind so filthy that you see only smut and appreciate nothing of the form and vulnerability of a nude?” I fumed.
And on I ranted for about three hours… Until it occurred to me that this was by far the coolest thing that had ever happened to my art. I felt suddenly like a banned book. From the first wildly inappropriate comparison of my little paintings to the work of Michelangelo, I swung to the other extreme. I was Tracey Emin, I was Salman Rushdie. I was banned! I’d never been banned from anything! I’m the type of half-arsed drunk who thanks the bouncer on the way out. I’ve never smoked a whole cigarette, and suddenly my art was subversive, controversial.
I was of course neither Michelangelo nor Rushdie. I had in fact been turned away from an exhibition that consisted largely of watercolours of the local park and a miniature oils of local shop fronts. And although it was a shame not to be able to show my work, and I do think they over reacted to some (very blurry) boobs and bums, it did highlight how bizarrely polarising nudes in art can be.
Some families with primary school aged children are totally unfazed. They ask their kids what they think of the colours, the techniques, “doesn’t it look like it’s moving water?” And yet some older wives will walk in and immediately rush out to spare their husbands the trauma of being face to face with a woman’s body.
I never thought my art was very exciting, in fact I worried it was a bit boring and obvious, and although I don’t really think my work deserves to be banned (or even blushed over), it was quite fun to feel like the naughty kid for once in my life.
Come and see my show at the Staithes Festival September 8 – 10th at Ash Cottage (if you dare…)