Friday, October 1, 2010

Uncensored: National Juried Exhibit at Anderson Creative Gallery

Anderson Creative Gallery unveiled its first ever national juried show taking advantage of National Anti-Censorship Month by showcasing what is billed to be work that is controversial, thought provoking and/or too hot to handle by other venues. I took my 17 year old son along to get his feelings about what was on view. He lasted about 8 minutes….he was bored. Oh well, what may be one person’s controversy is another person’s complacency.

This progressive gallery makes a conscious effort to be fresh and different each month so as to showcase the works on display. This time, deep grey walls draw visitors into the space almost to soften the blow of what they may see. Censorship is an interesting topic, near and dear to the core of all artists in whatever genre encourages personal expression. It is also a topic wide open to interpretation. The prospectus asked entrants to explain the controversy behind their work and whether it has been removed from a show. That inquiry produced some interesting observations and a decent dose of arrogance. Perhaps that is too strong a word, but without any way to judge the age of an artist or where they live, why certain feelings erupt can only be put into context by my own parameters. Unless an artist received a personal note from a juror explaining why their piece may have been rejected from a show, it is a bit presumptuous to assume the decision was based on content or message. Any thought given to the fact that a piece of work my just be poorly done? National shows can get 700 or more entries and select a mere 45 for exhibition so marginal entries won’t make the cut. The other example would be those artists who enter a work in a show that is obviously held in a public place, serves a demographic which includes minors, or has a specific focus. A little common sense as to the appropriateness of an entry would go a long way towards avoiding rejection and save some unwarranted whining. However….such wisdom comes with experience…years and years of trying, failing and trying again, learning how the art world works and learning who you are as an artist and what you want out of life through your art. That said, the jurors and curatorial team did a great job selecting a variety of pieces representing what tends to provoke people.

By my count, religion comes in number one at 10 pieces, political issues rate 7 works, personal issues and sex each get 5 entries, cultural perspectives have 3 and war inspired only 2. Sounds like the taboo topic list for many a Thanksgiving dinner. A warning label (okay, a semi wall) greets visitors at the door to set the stage for those who just have to find something to bitch about or some issue that must be righteously defended. I must be getting old as I found more humor than controversy in this show. (However, I tend to find a funny in most everything if possible so don’t get offended out there….)
For example, what may be the most uncomfortable piece in the show to most people is a relatively safe depiction of a female in typical pap smear position that has a message about the 72 virgins promised to Muslim martyrs. My thought was who ever said the virgins were female humans? Rather presumptuous is it not? Maybe the virgins are male or animals or centurions or I could have just missed that martyr memo altogether. In the politics department, I chuckled at the Dick Cheney themed linoleum cut. It is very well done (the artist has three pieces in the show) and had much to say. I am glad I did not have to tell him that I happen to have a photo of me standing next to Mr. Cheney taken after our brief chat a few years ago. And how come Ronnie McD always has to take one for the team where fast food is concerned? Wendy, Jack and the King are just as guilty and nobody calls them out as Moo murderers! (Hey greenies, less cows means less methane which means less global warming…so eat a steak and turn up the AC) Now don’t get all tight in the whiteys…if you can’t recognize controversial sarcasm, go read some other blog.

Okay, I will talk about the works and show itself for a bit. The Candy Dish of Oil Barrel Firecrackers by Stephen Wolochowicz (wow, my spell check hates his name!) is both clever and timely. Two sets of 4 Chinese take-out boxes were quite intriguing and require some time to really see the images and the messages depicted within the almost kaleidoscope design. If only the artist had allowed one of them to be assembled into its three dimensional form so some of the sides would almost disappear as if hiding the difficult sequences from our view. Light plays a distinct role in a piece by Laurie Fife Harbert, “Religious Flight” which is so totally appropriate for the subject matter. I found the shadow of the cross on the wall to be one of the most profound images in the room. I could relate to her message so this piece was the proverbial whole package to me. Oh geeze….this is way too easy just pointing out what is there. I’d rather talk about what else made me stifle a snicker.

A photographer was upset with taxidermy animal heads. Um….I have about 9 in my house. None were shot by anybody I know either. I collect and show them to honor the poor beasts that died. Their fur and faces are beautiful so better to be kept in mind than under a mound of memorabilia in the basement; I consider if a form of animal rescue. The anti Bush painting called Age of Kali had every cliché in the book, a gal after my own heart. Snakes, vampires, dunce caps….gee, sounds like my next display at Snarky Art. Too bad it was not a Bush Baby instead…then I could have been oh so clever in my comments. (This is where you have to read between the lines….I’ll wait…….) Oh nuts, I am over my word limit.

Many of our local artists are included in the show with pieces sometimes out of character and other times not. My own piece is a derivative of one aspect of my signature work, but it is the Women series that has incurred the most controversy. Three times I have had pieces pulled from a show because somebody (singular) has complained. Rather than getting all indignant about the situation, I prefer to turn the trouble back on the gallery. They store the piece and I send everybody I know to the venue asking to see it…..any idea how annoying that can get? No need to ask to see any pieces at Anderson Creative. Whether you want to look or not is up to you but I highly suggest keeping both your eyes and your mind open. Now if you will excuse me, I need to put on some Tom Lehrer and celebrate National Brotherhood Week, poison a few pigeons in the park and maybe genuflect to the Vatican Rag. If art and music aren’t enough, go see Marjory’s Diary on 10/7 at the Palace, Chesapeake at Kathleen Howard on 10/8, the Miracle of Morgan’s Creek at the Lincoln 10/21 or eat at Iris on 10/28 for dinner and a movie (both tasty but legal). Details can be found at


  1. I don't know if you are referring to "Don't Fuck Up" as the photo that includes the taxidermy, in which case I am the photographer. Just as you mentioned having 9 pieces of taxidermy in your home, I also am surrounded by taxidermy in my life and I love the aesthetic qualities of fur, antlers, hooves, fangs, etc. This particular instance took place at the garage of a friend who does props for movies.
    While I have often been disturbed by hunting/taxidermy because my whole family is full of hunters and trappers and in the winter I often come home to find a skinned and frozen pile of creature 'X' on the lawn, I also feel every part of the animal should be used and if this happens to be the fate of the animal they should be utilized to their full potential or displayed.
    I often photograph 'animal parts' I find out in public or at the houses of friends and family. (though I have never personally hunted and only recently shot a gun for the first time) Some are on display as taxidermy, some are piled up in a dark shed and have been forgotten. I love how you said you consider displaying taxidermy in your home 'a form of animal rescue' - That sums up my thoughts. I have made books and paper using turtle shells and animal pelts that others threw out or considered 'not good enough' to sell. This is sort of my way of knowing the animal has not died in vain.

    Thanks for this review of the show!

  2. I was the "Incarcerated guy" unable to attend("Fetish" "The Crucifixion of Robot St.Peter").
    Thanks for not mentioning me in the stuff that made you "stifle a snicker." However I think that perhaps you over-generalized the categorization of the works involved at Uncensored. ALthough I didn't see the exhibit( I would have liked to have gone), I can speak about my own entries in this reagrd. The intent of both relates to both "religion" and "personal issues and sex", so labeling them one or the other steals from the message.

    Uncensored had a wonderful concept, and it sounds as if they found a happy medium between tasteful thought-provocation, intentional cliche, and the gratuitous.