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Earlier this year, Lenny Campello of Daily Campello Art News plucked promising undergraduate works from schools along the Mid Atlantic for a show at D.C.’s Longview Gallery. According to Campello, the show, while successful, slipped pretty much under the District’s radar. But when the exhibit was moved this month to Mayer Fine Arts in Norfolk, Va., one student’s work managed to raise at least one eyebrow.
The piece in question, Martyrdom by Philadelphian Erika Risko, is a candy-colored nude which depicts a woman in the crucifiction pose from the neck down and the waist-up. The work, which shows two naked breasts, is on display directly in front of the gallery’s glass front door. According to gallery owner Sheila Giolitti, a visitor approached the gallery and requested that the offending piece be moved to a less conspicuous spot. Instead, Giolitti kept Risko’s work where it was, and simply hung two Styrofoam plates over the nipples. Check Campello’s site for the before-and-after.
Giolitti says her plate placement was an attempt to highlight the absurdity of the request. “The piece was completely nonsexual,” says Giolitti. “Honestly! It’s called ‘Martyrdom.’ It’s a no-head, feminist, ‘I am all women’ kind of statement.”
Adds Giolitti: “Our gallery is in the same establishment that houses, for instance, a Hooters. If people are more comfortable with Hooters, which objectifies women, than a nude piece of art, then I guess exploiting women’s bodies is much more to their taste,” she says. “So I’ve invited the public to come to decorate the plates with pens and glitter to make them into fabulous burlesque pasties.”
Giolitti says that Risko agreed to the boob job. “The artist was completely on-board with the concept,” says Giolitti. “We’ve tried to deal with it with humor. We’re basically just illustrating how silly it is.”
Today, the Virginian-Pilot covered the cover-up, exposing the opinions of other Nor-folk:
On Wednesday, every once in a while, a brisk current nudged one of the plates off its mark. From about 11 a.m. to noon, however, none of the passers-by even glanced at the offending artwork.
When the drawing was brought to their attention, visitors expressed widely varying opinions.
“I just feel like a woman’s private parts are hers,” said Jane Bruno, 42, of Suffolk, who added that she would rather not see exposed breasts in public.
“Because it is art, it doesn’t offend me that way,” said Jaz Brown, 26, a Virginia Beach construction worker on a break. “Art is trying to capture the person. I think it’s beautiful.”
“What about little kids, though?” said his co-worker, Daniel Pitino, 35, of Virginia Beach. “Not sure. Not sure.”
The show runs until August 20th. The pasties still await decoration.