A standing portrait by the emerging 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 May, 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 Thankfully, the world is evolving, this outdated paradigm is crumbling, and forms of censorship such as this are becoming unacceptable to the wider public.”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.
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 Leena McCall