NEW YORK, May 4, 2012 — The art world, long the object of censorship, is now censoring artists. In a clear case of anti-woman, anti-naked, and anti-artist prejudice, West Chelsea Artists Open Studios (WCAOS), perhaps one of the world’s most important open studio events, initially accepted Sarah White as a photographer/performance artist on April 19, but then censored and banned her on May 1. The censoring came when Ms. White tried to identify herself as The Naked Therapist and submitted a feature image. She was then removed from the event via email because she was a “commercial entity” and “not an artist” and the image was an “ad,” not “art.” The censored image, and her response, can be found at http://sarahwhiteart.com.
To protest the blacklisting, Ms. White will hold her own Open Studio at The Hôtel Americano in Chelsea from 4-8pm on May 13, 2012 (the last day of the WCAOS) to show her work and let the public decide if it’s art and to take part in an open dialogue on censorship, commercialism vs. art, and the professional segregation of women who utilize the performative body to engage arousal.
According to Ms. White, “I have been creating photographic art about sexuality, Americana, and the forbidden for over a decade, for the last two years I’ve been making art influenced by my Naked Therapy practice, and I’ve recently begun investigating performance art therapy. So I’m an artist and I’m The Naked Therapist. But when I tried to identify myself as such, the Open Studios became not so ‘open,’ and I was censored and banned. Apparently if a woman uses her body in any way other than what the art world considers ‘acceptable’ she is ostracized. Given my established artistic portfolio, I find it insulting and quite troubling that an event that is ‘open to all West Chelsea artists’ feels it has the right to say that I am not an artist.”
Ms. White also feels that “this raises some very interesting questions about contradictions in the art world when it comes to how commercialism, the Internet and performance are involved in art and what one has to do to have the ‘right’ to call oneself an artist. If Damien Hirst put TheRichestArtist.org on an orange field it would sell AS ART for millions at Sotheby’s because it would be taken as a profound comment on the money-obsessed art culture, yet when I place a url on my image I’m told I’ve made an ad and not art. Further, my art is very informed by the Internet, by performance art, and by commerce-based models of artistic identity, and the established art world often has a big problem with these elements. If you do not take the traditional route to gaining the ‘right to call yourself an artist – an MFA, lots of Gallery climbing, and an almost nun-like devotion to keeping your ‘art’ pure from the evils of ‘commerce’ (while also doing your best to sell your works for as high a price as they’ll command) – then you’re not considered an ‘artist.’ I find that a ridiculous and completely outdated position to be taking in the 21st century when the Internet has given everyone the most democratic, flexible artistic arena ever invented and so many people are simply trying to take advantage of this new opportunity.”
This is not the first time Ms. White has been hypocritically banished from assumed bastions of freedom. Facebook deleted her profile and fan page (which contained no nudity) without explanation, yet Playboy has a Facebook page that links to naked images. She’s been told by various psychology professionals that she cannot be admitted to a Masters program or obtain licensing because her methods potentially breach the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (even though Naked Therapy involves no sexual contact). And HuffPost has said it won’t publish her articles until she has a graduate degree, yet publishes others without that qualification.
Despite this, many professionals have shown support. For example, in March 2012 she headlined a SXSW panel hosted by Dr. John Grohol (PsychCentral.com) called “Online Therapy…Naked?”. And this recent act of censorship has only emboldened Ms. White: “I practice Naked Therapy to help my clients and to investigate arousal in the therapeutic context. I make art to express my creative voice. And I’ll continue to do these things, accepted or not, because I think they’re vital to freedom and wellness in our world.”
For more info, contact Sarah White at firstname.lastname@example.org.