What’s Wrong with this Picture?

I asked my husband what’s wrong with this picture painted by Leena McCall. What was pornographic about it? The Mall Gallery took it down due to complaints that it was pornographic. The woman is not in a compromising situation. She is mostly dressed, hinting at her sexy bits but not displaying them. He guessed that people must be complaining about the pipe.

No, people complained because the model is not shaved. The model is woman naturale. Expose a bit of pubic hair and outrage rears its ugly head. In this day of age, in art, if the painting does not conform to societal standards of appropriate womanhood, then it is pornographic. Really.

Modern and contemporary art had several artists who pushed at convention and made people see in a new way. That is the progress of art; start with the concept of painting light (impressionist) and move towards painting emotion (expressionist), add in cubism and other non-realistic ways to paint the world, and run with it. Slather paint on a canvas. Worry about texture, color. Paint music. That was the twentieth century in art. Push boundaries, see where it takes you. But in the twenty-first century, if a woman paints a real woman who is unapologetic about her womanness, the painting is hidden away, kept from the public as embarrassing, non-conformist, too sexual, pornographic. You need a properly waxed, razor-thin model showing ribs through her skin in a bathing suit that hides nothing because there is nothing to hide, to be seen as acceptable.

But, as with all things women nowadays, hidden is comfortable, better for society, because a strong woman is terrifying.

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