Saturday, May 08, 2010

Banned in Belmar

The 6th Annual Jersey Shore Juried Art Show finished its run around the end of April. Just before then word got around that they were looking to put selections from the show into a second exhibition at a nearby bank, which had hosted a couple of other BAC organized shows over the past year. I wasn't sure if I should volunteer my piece (see the above photo) for the second show, wondering if the bank would find my print a little too odd for a business location, but our local organizer saw no problem. A few days ago I was finally able to drop by to see the show in the bank, and my piece had a nice location, straight across the lobby from the main door.

Then yesterday, a small problem. Got an e-mail from the show organizers saying that the bank manager was concerned over the content of my print, and was requesting I remove it and replace it with something else. The specific problem was the nude figure in the upper left corner. A very insignificant part of a large print (as you can see above) and there have been many more prominent examples of uncovered bodies in public spaces throughout the history of art, including today. But hey, I don't want to ruin this venue for everyone else, so early this afternoon I grabbed a few framed pieces and drove up to the bank. I went inside and when the manager wasn't there, I was directed to the assistant on duty. He was very surprised when I told him why I was there ("But that's the best piece in the show!" he told me) but agreed to help pick the replacement. I brought in several medium-large pieces and he and a teller picked the portrait piece seen below, which happens to be the print I had in the previous year's Annual Juried Show. Assuming there are no further objections, the print will remain up through the end of July.

I didn't get overly excited by the whole thing because I've been through this a few times before. By the standards of contemporary art, my work is pretty tame, but from time to time it has been too radical for business related showcases. A good example from the past can be seen below. About a decade ago the Printmaking Council scheduled a juried exhibition to celebrate a recently enacted law that set aside half of the state's remaining undeveloped land as permanent open space. The art would have to reflect this theme. I had a few ideas, made two prints, including one about the ongoing trend of developers turning small local farms into expensive blocks of houses. A good sized plot of land down my street that had been a corn farm was suddenly cleared and replaced by 20 houses. (the prices on the sign were higher than average for those days, but impossibly low by today's standards)

The gallery director at the time loved it. The PCNJ had been offered a free ad space for the show by a central/west Jersey tourism magazine, and she asked me permission to use my piece as the illustration. Of course I agreed. But a short time later I got some bad news. The magazine's editor wouldn't run it. I guess they were expecting some nice scenic rural landscapes, and were scared that my print would offend real estate developers, their most important advertisers. So I was out. And that's pretty much what happened with the bank (I learned later), no actual complaint, just a manager who was afraid someone important would be offended and he'd be held responsible.


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