On January 9, 2004 work from my series titled “Blue Things I Wear” was accepted into “The Open Show” at the University of San Diego as a part of the 15th annual Social Issues conference.
On February 25, 2004, three days before I was to deliver the work for installation, I was informed that the Board overseeing this exhibit censored my work out of “The Open Show.”
The work in this project is explicitly queer, though not necessarily sexually explicit. However the works submitted and chosen for “The Open Show” were done so with the recognition that USD is a private Catholic university. To have them censored out of an art exhibit intended to raise issues of GLBT concern in the context of a “Social Issues” conference – despite it’s location – is, to say the least, ironic.
Furthering the irony of this situation, as my artist statement reads: I am “Interested in examining effects of policing and surveillance as it relates to the construction of identity within marginalized public spheres…In this project I am searching for visual and textual language to express queer identities that are separate from distinctly lesbian or gay paradigms… Documenting my community from within, intentionally opposing ethnographic explorations of an “other” as well as a heteronormative surveilling of desire, this work presents an intimate gaze upon an unapologetically queer subculture.”
The pieces censored are a series of three digital video stills. One is a shot of blue hair ties, one is shot of blue bras, and one is a shot of the blue hair ties next a baseball sock with a blue stripe wrapped around a blue dildo. The work is a portrayal of a queer female identity that embraces relationships to both femininity and masculinity. It holds formal issues of composition, color and presentation, while at the same time being humorous in this formal treatment of these everyday objects. It is intended to be interrogated, to create dialogue, to offer a visual approach to issues of identity that are defined by sex practices without being explicitly sexual.
It was removed from the show because it contained a partial image of a dildo and it was determined to have no educational value.
While I have no doubts that the other works in the show are compelling and offer important perspectives, censoring this work silences the possibility of discourse around the above issues within a GLBT art show. It contradicts the intent of “The Open Show” and refuses the organizer the freedom to present her original curatorial choices. And, ultimately, it imposes a narrow hegemony for which queer issues can be addressed within a liberal arts institution.