A work of art by London and Berlin based visual artist Leena McCall has been removed from The Mall Galleries, London for being deemed ‘too pornographic and disgusting’. The painting was selected by the Society for Women Artists (SWA) for their 153rd annual exhibition.
Two days after a special Charity Evening and the Private View the picture 'Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing' was removed by the Mall Galleries.
Leena McCall said: “My work deals with female sexual and erotic identity. The fact that the gallery has deemed the work inappropriate and seen it necessary to have it removed from public display underlines the precise issue I am trying to address: how women choose to express their sexual identity beyond the male gaze.”
Leena McCall’s artwork explores the female sense of erotic and how women choose to express their own erotic identity. Throughout art history, women have been portrayed (largely by men) as the object intended for the ‘male gaze’. In ‘Portrait of Ms. Ruby, Standing’, one of an ongoing series of works, McCall presents how a woman chooses to portray herself sexually, using the traditional language of portraiture – oil painting.
Ruby May added: "I don’t think people realise how threatening a sexually empowered woman is to a paradigm that is still patriarchal at its roots. Thankfully, the world is evolving, this outdated paradigm is crumbling, and forms of censorship such as this are becoming unacceptable to the wider public."
The SWA annual exhibition is a showcase of the work of women artists since 1857. It prides itself on being a unique Society able to showcase one of the most diverse shows in London today, and encourages innovation and daring in art. It seems a lifetime since the mid-nineteenth century, a time when women were not considered serious contributors to the field of art.
Call for debate:
Why is it that the exploration of the female form and eroticism has to be censored? To highlight female sexual identity and express the female sense of erotic should merely be a matter for discussion, not censorship? In response to this inequitable act of suppression, McCall has asked supporters to join in the conversation on Twitter using hash-tag #eroticcensorship at @MsMccall @mallgalleries and on the Facebook page Facebook Leena McCall.
The ‘offending’ painting in question is still available to view on the SWA website here.
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The exhibition at The Mall Galleries runs to July 5.
To see examples of McCall’s work go to: www.leenamccall.com
The Mall Galleries: http://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/index.php?pid=2&subid=215
About Leena McCall
McCall’s inspiration starts with the sitter. She will choose to collaborate with the model; the painting is an expression of both the artist and the subject. McCall will ask her to explore and express her own sense of erotic, whether that is through the choice of clothes she wears, the props she chooses or the pose she strikes.
The process prompts many questions – how much of a woman’s erotic identity is influenced or conditioned by the erotic imagery created by men for men? What makes a woman feel erotic and how does she choose to represent that part of her identity? How does an erotic portrait differ to any other portrait?
McCall wants the model to be in control of the dialogue with the viewer, turning the observer into the observed. We become the objects of her gaze.
2012 Runner-up prize and Visitors' Choice prize, Art Erotica Exhibition, Cork Street, London
2009 Valentine Rothe Preis, 3rd prize, Frauenmuseum, Bonn
About Ruby May
Ruby May, a self-described 'sexpansionist', has spent the last decade supporting others to think beyond limiting beliefs and to find fulfilment and joy in their sexuality, through her sessions and international workshops. www.alchemy-eros.com