When I was a child, we had a puzzle that was up on the shelf in our living room; it was a Peanuts and the Gang puzzle and on the side of the box it said ~Peanuts~… Every time I would see it I would think ~ penis~ and it would make me giggle. I was a child, I thought childish things. I did not grow up in a home that had a body positive culture but even I knew what a penis was even if it was more likely to be called by any one of the various slang names our culture has for this particular piece of male anatomy.
Fast forward 40+ years and I am practically a professor of penises, or at least an ardent admirer let alone the mother of 5 boys so I have indeed also done my fair share of diaper-duty.
Penises are here to stay my friend (unless of course you don’t fancy to have one anymore; I wholly support that as well, but it is another post all together!) so we best get used to the fact that they are all around us… with the stunning exception of not being on Kathy Nida’s quilt .
If you are at all a part of the online quilt scene, you might be watching in rapt anticipation the next move in the whole kerfuffle that has resulted in AQS Quilt show pulling the two quilted SAQA exhibit pieces by the artist Kathy Nida. For the whole back story and some amazing photos of her quilts I suggest reading this post by the artist herself. .
I am going to be the first to say that AQS has every right to show the pieces they want and reject the rest. The show is their sandbox so they set the rules there. Trouble being that in this case they accepted the quilt as part of the SAQA exhibit within the AQS show and then pulled it due to a single woman voicing objection saying that she “thought” there was a penis depicted in the quilt.
The rally cries from the dark are hinged on the topic of censorship but I would suggest that the issue is bigger and much further reaching than a quilt show being willing to pull down the work of an established artist based solely on the pearl clutching of one woman in GrandRapids.
Before we go much further I need to make it clear that I am rather wild about men. I mean I have gone so far as to tell you that I have more than a passing fancy for the male form so while I am doing my best to talk about the institution of patriarchy I also want to give due to the bunches of amazing men in my life, including my husband and my own sons. You guys Rock!!
This topic is big… like really big, and if you want to get all Nancy Drew about it start by Googling about the supression of art done by women through the ages. Honestly it is amazing knowing what we know that Whistler’s Mother was not renamed Whistler’s Father since far greater works have been co-oped, suppressed or erased through history by groups of men who appointed themselves judge, jury, and purse string holder and found women’s art unsuitable for reasons ranging from their own discomfort to strictly economic.
In the case of AQS, dollars and a chicken-shit tolerance for even the least bit of controversy are my bets for the reasons that they quilts came down. This indicates certain lack of backbone or desire to further the work of artists who in this case are most often women. (Yes, believe me I know men quilt. Remember, I LOVE me some men!)
In this case men (institutional and patriarchal) not supporting women/artists since it does not improve their pocketbook in the least to do so. In this case it was a quilt with no penis, but maybe next time it is a quilt that shows the love between two people of the same sex or covers the topic of rape or celebrates the freedom to marry or birth or death.
Yes this penis or lack thereof was just the tip of the iceberg (yeah I went there).
This topic is an onion of many layers each, when peeled, back brings forth another layer that stings the eyes, assaults the nose and in the end hurts my freedom art loving heart. Each of us has a choice about how we will react.
We are opening SPOOL as a September Venue for both of Kathy’s quilts that were removed from further showing at AQS venues along with many Rocky Horror entries that should start coming in any day now. Feel free to come see them during AQS week in Chattanooga.
As for you, if you support the right to free artistic expression (with or without genitals) let your voice be heard. Support events that artistically embrace the edgy sometimes messy parts of life. Put your money where your mouth is by supporting all artists who are pushing the boundaries and expanding our world with their art. But most off all… continue to be BadAss in all you do.