Images courtesy of artist, Alessandra Guth
The administrators at Pepperdine University have allowed Alessandra Guth’s artworks to remain on the main campus and open to the public for the rest of the semester.
Original Post 11/17/2019:
Administrators at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, plan to quarantine the artworks of Alessandra Guth, a senior and an art major, from a forthcoming exhibition because they depict nude bodies. NCAC has written to Pepperdine’s president, Jim Gash, to urge the university to refrain from censoring their student and uphold their commitment to academic and artistic freedom.
Guth produced a series of seven photographic works that reference The Seven Deadly Sins. The works are intended to encourage discussion around themes of the human body, religion and sexuality, and depict fellow students’ nude bodies (without displaying their faces) printed on canvas and suspended in frames.
Rather than displaying the works with other students’ works in the primary exhibition space, administrators have decided to sequester Guth’s works by installing them in a mobile art gallery adjacent to the main space for the night of the opening reception on November 21, after which, the mobile gallery will be moved off campus. While her peers’ works will remain on view for the remainder of the semester, Guth’s works will no longer be displayed after the opening and will be censored for the duration.
The works depict simple nudes, which are neither obscene nor pornographic, and belong to an artistic tradition of depicting nudes as a primary subject for artists throughout history.
Artistic freedom at universities is the subject of a 1990 statement adopted at the “Wolf Trap Conference on Academic Freedom and Artistic Expression.” The statement has been endorsed by several organizations and academic institutions and holds that artistic freedom for students and faculty integral to academic freedom on campus.
As NCAC’s Joy Garnett writes,
For a university dedicated to nurturing the inner and intellectual lives of its students, censoring artworks over their depiction of nudes is especially concerning. By quarantining and then removing these works, the university runs afoul of its mission to nurture the creative and intellectual wellbeing of its students and the core values of academic freedom. … The response to art displayed on a college campus should be the same as the response to ideas voiced in the classroom: discussion and debate, not censorship.
NCAC has asked Pepperdine to restore Guth’s works to full display alongside the works of her peers.
Credit is due to the Pepperdine University Graphic for their story originally alerting NCAC to this case.
NCAC’s letter to Pepperdine University is below. Click here for a full screen view.