Tag Archives: Woman Artist

Art Censorship: How Social Media Edits Our World View

With all the horror terrorizing the world, something wonderful happened recently for the arts, and we have the French to thank for it.

In a landmark censorship case against art, the French ruled that Facebook can be sued in France for censoring content. Parisian teacher Fréderic Durand-Baissas had his account suspended 5 years ago after he posted Gustave Courbet’s painting, The Origin of the World, because it depicts female genitalia.

The social media giant tried to insist complaints had to be tried in California Courts. They lost as the French courts said, we think not. The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users.

M. Durand-Baissas, a 57 year old art lover and a father of two was angry at being portrayed as a pornographer after posting the famous 1866 oil painting. He told AP News Service, If (Facebook) can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France can.

As a professional artist and a curator of contemporary figurative artists emerging from the atelier systems, the issue of censorship on social media has been an ongoing issue. One of the problems is that social media image scanning algorithms cannot tell the difference between pornography and the painted image.

In fact these algorithms often can’t decipher the images they are viewing. For example, this painting by Marco Grassi was removed from my feed and my account was frozen for three days. (It was properly identified for copyright and included his bio).

Art Censorship - Marco Grassi - Autocorpo
©Marco Grassi, “Autocorpo”, oil painting. This painting caused my Facebook account to be suspended for 3 days. The algorithm could not tell a marble arm or a human foot from a penis.

France is not the only country taking issue with Facebook, Norway, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands have also insisted Facebook explain itself and about its ludicrous censorship policies. Examples include male nipples being OK, female nipples banned. Breastfeeding is banned but the beheading of a human or the evisceration of an animal is not.

Norwegian author Tom Egeland had his account suspended when he posted the Pulitzer prize winning photo The Terror of War which depicts children, including a naked girl fleeing from a napalm attack. The subject was about photos that changed the history of warfare.

One of the issues with trying to contest our pages being shut down is that most of the complaints are turned over to a low paid home based operator. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws.

A clear example of this happened to American Senior Art critic and columnist for the New Yorker Magazine, Jerry Saltz. Saltz was kicked off of Facebook for posting images of medieval art. Although he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times, a blitz of hate and insults were directed at him personally.

The problem is that anyone who views art or imagery which conflict with their own beliefs can have your page shut down by moderators. A Muslim man that expects his wife to be covered is not going to want to see a woman in her natural form. White nationalists target paintings with people of color. The problem I have with this issue is the same question other artists have, “Why follow our art if you don’t like it?”

Having this kind of inverted censorship has created decades of the visually illiterate. Much of art being posted online is amateur, sentimental at best, toxic at worst. The classically trained painters are systematically blocked, often by people who want to control and punish others who see the world differently. It has become a tool for control those who embody shame, rage, religious dogma.

Cesar Santos, a master painter who trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, had 30,000 followers on Facebook. His account was closed by Facebook because “the haters kept reporting his nudes.”

Art Censorship - Cesar Santos - Map of an Island
© Cesar Santos, oil painting, “Map of An Island”.

If Social Media can create an Emotion Buttons its time for them to create an Art Button. An Art button would tell people they must be over 18 to view, that there might be nudity involved. If you view that person’s art page, you have agreed that you are of age and know what you may see. You will not have the right to report. (While they are at it they can design one for violence too).

How difficult could this be for coders if they have technology to recognize the skin of a child based on Markov Random Field Modelling? (I won’t explain it because it’s too creepy).

Here’s an image by Kamille Corry that got my account blocked both on Facebook and on Twitter.

Art Censorship - Kamille Corry - Scorched Wings
©Kamille Corry, oil painting, “Scorched Wings”.

As long as social media censors art, our perception of both art and the human form will be distorted. The human anatomy is studied, drawn, and painted for years by professional artists. It is a satellite for every emotion and a timeless beacon of all that we all share, our humanness.

Art Censorship - Angela Cunningham
©Angela Cunningham, student work from Grand Central Atelier in NYC

Featured Image: A visitor in front of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” painting which depicts female genitalia at Musee d’Orsay museum, in Paris, France.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev

How To Sell An Old Or Valuable Painting

They were once known as the Three D’s of the auction world: Death, Divorce, and Debt. Auction houses have traditionally obtained their best merchandise as a result of these three disasters. Unfortunately, due to the economic times we live in, the Three D’s have evolved. We now have The Five D’s of Auction Houses and Forclosures: Death, Disease, Drugs, Divorce, and Denial.

For years I’ve modestly cleaned or repaired artwork found at auction as a way of conserving our heritage. It is common for people who visit my art studio to mention paintings they’ve inherited from a bereavement. They often want to sell their painting but have no idea how to go about it.

Recently someone mentioned a painting they had inherited. They believed it to be by the French Rococo painter and printmaker, Jean Honore Fragonard. The process to sell a Fragonard painting is the same step by step directions that I would recommend to anyone wanting to sell an older painting.

The most important thing required for selling any artwork is compiling its history. Known as the Provenance, it is the paperwork that confirms the authenticity of a piece. It is the history of how you came to own the painting. It may have been through an inheritance or a purchase from an auction or a gallery. However you came by it there will be a paper trail.

Provenance can also be in the form of exhibition or gallery stickers, newspaper or magazine articles, original sales receipts, a photo of the artist with the painting.

Having a written statement from an established authority on the artist or subject will help authenticate a painting. Sadly, the more common Certificates of Authenticity floating about on places like E-Bay mean nothing. They can be bought by anyone walking into a chain office supply store.

One of the best things you can do before attempting to personally sell your painting is to consult with an auction house. Every major auction house has a free appraisal day once a month. Find out what that day is for the Sotheby’s, Bonham’s, Christies or other auction houses near you.

Confirm that there will be someone available during the free appraisal day who specializes in the work you want to sell. For example, you would want to see the person who specializes in 18th Century paintings if you owned the Fragonard. On the free auction appraisal day bring your painting with you along with everything you have on the painting’s provenance. This greatly adds to the legitimacy of the work.

You may believe the paperwork on your art is already legitimate and feel defensive about having an auction house examine the piece. No one thinks your grandparents would lie to you, but whomever you inherited your art from may not have acquired their art from someone trustworthy.

Remember, auction houses hire experts in their field. They often know something that others may not. ‘The Fountain of Love’ featured with this article actually had two versions painted by the artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. One version of the painting was a bequest in 1897 to the Wallace Collection in London. An untrained eye might think the second version that surfaced in the United States in 1996 was a fake. It wasn’t, and was later purchased and restored by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The auction house art historian will either verify a painting or tell you that it is not authentic. It is in the best interest of the auction house to find authenticated pieces of art. No one benefits from fakes. The artwork is tracked and documented every step of the way. They will also give you an auction estimate.

Auction houses will also give you a high and low auction estimate of what the piece is expected to sell for. They do this for you because they will want to sell the art for the commission. (You will pay a percentage of the sale and the buyer also pays a premium). For most people this is a better choice than selling privately. An auction house will catalogue & index it, and attract a large group of buyers that may be interested in your painting. They are set up to receive money in any amount from any country. They also have expertise in shipping, storage and insurance.

If you want to avoid an auction house, you’re going to probably require a little more than paperwork to sell directly to a dealer or private buyer. If your painting does not have its provenance, you will have trouble getting the high value everyone would like.

For a fee, you can sometimes hire an art broker who will occasionally research and acquire paperwork on a painting. Like auction houses, art brokers are always looking for inventory for their client’s wish lists. For this reason, do not have the work cleaned or repaired until your painting has been authenticated; art brokers will sometimes use trusted conservationists at a new owner’s request.

The next question people usually ask is, “who pays for a painting’s authentication?” In the case of the Fragonard example mentioned above, an expert or a gallery that specialized in 18th century art would have been contacted. The expert may ask for microscopic paint scrapings to be analyzed by a lab for date identification.

If the paint analysis comes back correctly dating your painting they may also take on the added expense of an X-ray, depending on its potential value. I’m referring to art brokers with high end clients who have wish lists for their collection.

If your expert has a collector in mind, they may have you bring the painting with them to a hospital for an X-ray. This is an expenditure of few thousand dollars out of pocket for the gallery.

I’d like to add that most art brokers will not go to this expense unless they have a contract with you. If you back out of that agreement you will get a bill for not only their expertise but the lab and X-ray expenses.

The price an art broker offers you will not be the price he sells it for, nor will you meet any of his clients. A broker is hired not just to help you but because they are a treasure hunter for collectors. Their job requires years of knowledge, is labor intensive and high risk. Without that expertise you would get a fraction of the price that may be offered.

An auction house will sometimes buy a piece to restore and sell at a later date if it is a high demand item that has not been cared for properly. They may have it restored and save it for an Old Master’s sale.

As a painter and an art collector, I’d like to add this final thought. Never keep a piece of art out of a false sense of history or loyalty. Art holds an energy that effects people whether they are conscious of it or not.Think of how tagging can make a neighborhood feel unsafe or how a sculpture in a garden can hold a feeling of peace and tranquility. If you do not love looking at it and look at it every day it serves no one.

Of further interest on this subject:

Featured Image: Jean Honore Fragonard ‘The Fountain of Love’ (Detail)

In Art Or Music, Never Fight Your Materials

A few years ago a 30 year old friend of mine told me he was finally going to buy a guitar and take lessons. He went on to add, “it would just be a cheap one in case he didn’t like it or wasn’t good at it.” As an avid supporter of the arts, I am sure he did not expect my reply. I told him not to bother if that was how he intended to start his new hobby.

I am a firm believer in using the best quality art materials you can afford. If you use poor brushes or paints making art will become a drudgery. You do not ever want to fight your materials, or your musical instruments for that matter.

The materials you want to use are a personal preference depending on what and how you paint. It is important for artists to do their research, to look up different brands and the reviews by artists that use those brands. They must always keep in mind what they like to paint.

For example, I apprenticed for four years with a landscape painter who loved Winsor Newton for their greens and yellows. However they are not my favorite oils for portraits, they made my subjects look sallow.

When I moved away from landscapes, I started to prefer Sennelier Oils from Paris which I still use. Sennelier oils have this wonderful buttery texture. They also use a safflower oil that does not yellow. Their colors are luxurious but not garish.

Now I use Rublev Colours in addition to the Sennelier Oils. Rublev uses the same formulas as the Old Masters (ground from natural minerals and earths) in a linseed base. They are wonderful for portraits.

When artists start creating and selling their work, I’ve noticed they often resist spending money on supplies. What if the painting isn’t good enough to sell they ask? I ask back, “What if it turns out to be the best piece you’ve ever done and launches your career?” No matter how poor you perceive yourself to be as an artist, I always recommend setting aside ten percent of your sale for new materials. 

Setting aside 10% for your materials keeps your studio replenished but also sends a message to yourself that you are a professional and that you take your business seriously. When you own your art as a serious profession, you work harder. You’ll find yourself keeping more disciplined hours, better records, and less tolerant of interruptions.

My friend who finally got serious about learning guitar took my advice to heart. Rather shockingly, he spent as much on his guitar as some do on a small car. He loved the way it looked, he loved the way it felt when he picked it up. It became the perfect lover when he leaned it into his body. He loved the sound it made when he touched it. He practiced every free moment.

Four weeks later my friend was playing music for me over Skype from Singapore. In a year he was writing music. After two years he performed a solo at his company’s huge corporate holiday party. Girls finally paid attention to him. He loved making music. He told me how grateful he was for advising him to buy a good instrument to learn on. He said it was the best advice he had ever received!

Featured Cover Art: Rattle Magazine Winter 2015

Peace on Earth has been selected as the feature cover for the Winter 2015 edition of Rattle Magazine.