ART CENSORSHIP @ AGINCOURT TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY
The Agincourt Library called me today to alert me that a "customer" had complained about three paintings of mine that are on display there. They have been taken down earlier this morning due to "explicit sexual content," being imagery depicting a rape scene, a guy peeing on a girl's foot, and people without clothes. Her argument was that the library needed to be a sheltered environment to protect children in maintaining a family friendly environment. The paintings were removed without my consent as I did not receive a say in matter. My point of view on the matter was not asked for, nor given a chance, prior to its removal.
In my defence:
1. This lady is not a "customer," because she is certainly no customer of mine, but an unhappy camper. If she is a "customer" of the library, then I am just as much a "customer" of the same library, if not more so, because I am the one who paid the forty dollars to the Scarborough Arts Council whom the library, according to policy, has a responsibility to work in conjunction with, in providing for an art exhibit in what is labelled as a "public" space. I would like to know who is really been deciding what goes in "public" spaces. I see art I don't like all the time, but I never order it to be removed. Furthermore, the unhappy camper is welcome to come up with an art exhibit of her own and exhibit it at the library, I have no issue with that. In fact, I would even appreciate an invite, with open arms.
2. Children and families love my work. Ordering the removal of artwork that children and families love does not sound like trying to maintain a family friendly environment to me. I would much rather have young people being interested in and looking at art and paintings at the local library, than I would have them out on the street unsupervised. In fact, here are at least two positive testimonials of people who saw all of my work prior to its removal, uncensored, and uninhibited, at the library:
3. Sex is a natural part of life. To treat it like anything else is to perpetuate a culture of fear, repression, and ignorance. I believe it is not sexual imagery that is harmful to society, but ignorance that is. For example, most if not all prisoners are victims of child abuse. Generating thought and discussion surrounding these issues will teach a child to speak up before it's too late. What better way is there to do this than through the use of delicately painted cartoons at the local library?
4. According to policy, libraries have a responsibility to provide the public with a supportive and welcoming atmosphere in fostering intellectual thought and the creative life of a community of diverse ages and backgrounds. The removal of artwork eliminates the possibility of intellectual thought and creative life. I also consider it an insult to myself, to my collectors, and to my fans, which is also comprised of a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, and also to the general public at large. The library is the last place I'd expect censorship. In fact, one of the same censored paintings was freely shown at the Toronto Pearson International Airport with no removal, they even paid me $100 to rent it from me to display it. I would have expected that there would be greater, if not at least equal intellectual freedom from the Toronto Public Library compared to that of the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
5. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the legal definition of sexually explicit involves depicting penetration. Although my paintings may suggest penetration, no such thing is depicted. The only thing depicted are hues of acrylic paint (a plastic), and black ink. Everything else really is left to the subjective imagination, are we to pretend that each and every one of us does not have one?
6. I only paint what I see and feel. To pretend that what I see and feel is not valid, nor existent, is all the more offensive, in my opinion.
This week's summer reading is on Nazi Germany and degenerate art. I know of at least three librarians who could benefit from visiting their own history section, that is, if that's not censored already due to above reasons. Today humanity has disappointed me.
As a member of the public, I feel I am being censored by actions that are what the TPL calls protecting the public. My "Censorship" signs have been rejected for "For More Info" signs in place of each missing painting.
This experience has lead me to believe that I will now always view the art that is inside Toronto's Public Libraries through a skewed lens. Visitors to Agincourt are encouraged to ask what they are hiding behind their velvet curtain. Pay attention to what you are not allowed to see.
Perhaps the library needs to make the distinction between art and craft. Art is suppose to be thought provoking, you can't show good art without ruffling a few feathers. Craft is technically sound, but thoughtlessly boring. I don't care much for it myself. However, the library claims they want to exhibit art, when in actuality, their actions show that they can only handle craft. I would say 95% of what I see out there that claims to be art is in actuality, craft, commercial product, or something made only for a particular elite. There are extremely few affordable places where one can show true art. If I wanted to exhibit my work in an uninhibited and uncensored environment that would offer me the same quality exposure, I would have to rent out a commercial gallery at about $700 dollars a week. Extremely few artists who make art, and not commercial products, can afford this. The elimination of such an affordable exhibition space brings art and the freedom of intellectual thought, expression, and exchange that much closer to its already inherent ties with wealth, social class, and segregation.
"The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things to come, but in the sense that he tells his audience, at risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts."
"Art is the community's medicine for the worst disease of mind, the corruption of consciousness."
- R. G. Collingwood
I propose we save one of Toronto's last Public Art Exhibition Spaces, any librarian is welcome to join me in the task.