The Curatorial Department of Facebook

Gloating is an ugly quality. I’ve promised myself that I would try – TRY – to refrain from gloating or saying “I told you so” in this post. I do admit, however, to positively relishing any chance to whip up anti-Facebook sentiment on this blog. I have done it before, and dammit I’ll do it again! Here’s the situation.

The New York Academy of Art, a school where I model on a regular basis, recently found itself in “violation” of Facebook’s “Terms of Use” rules by uploading an image that contained nudity. You can read the entire story at the New York Times article, “Art School Runs Afoul of Facebook’s Nudity Police”. The offending image was an amazing ink drawing by Steven Assael. Steven is one of the most esteemed figurative artists living today and I am a huge fan of  his work.

And the drama continues. From the Times article:

Days later, when a school administrator was uploading images from a faculty show to Facebook, the school’s account was suddenly blocked from uploading anything for seven days. “They must have decided that we are a repeat offender,” said David Kratz, president of the academy. “We are a graduate school of figurative art. We teach people classical skills and technique.” Mr. Kratz said he and his staff were at a loss for what to do, since “there is no obvious way to contact anyone” at Facebook.

Personally, I’ve had it with these fine art vs obscene nudity “controversies” that pop up every few months. I’m just really tired of it. It’s lame, it’s old, it’s stupid, stale, and retrograde. It’s the same shit over and over again. People can’t discern between fine art and offensive porn? Really? A nude figurative drawing or oil painting created through inspiration, technique, and artistry cannot be distinguished from purely titillating, degrading smut? Really?? It’s become this embarrassing, repetitive nonsense. And now Facebook is involved. Ugh. Colorado artist Daniel Sprick had a similar problem with Facebook’s Terms of Use.

But remember that I am not on Facebook, so I don’t know anything about how it works in terms of image uploads, filters, etc. Maybe some of my readers can inform me? Most of my artist friends have Facebook pages which I obviously cannot view – because I’m not on Facebook. How do you guys get your nude images up? I just wrote in an email to my friend John Wellington that one of the reasons I didn’t start a Facebook page was that I feared problems would arise with posting images of my art modeling work. And that’s why I started this blog instead, over three years ago, so I could post my images without worrying about terms violations.

Speaking of John Wellington, he too has been caught up in this Facebook mess. In fact, he is quoted in the NY Times Article:

“It seems like they have really gone after artists,” said John Wellington, an artist in New York who is a graduate of the academy. “The images they are taking down are clearly paintings.” After one of his paintings was taken down recently, Mr. Wellington said he deleted from Facebook all the images that he had uploaded that showed a nipple, for fear that his account would be disabled.

Here’s John’s awesome painting that was deleted by Facebook. Click to enlarge so you can read his “safety warning”. Thank for the jpeg John! And here is the NYAA blog post which discusses this issue.

22 thoughts on “The Curatorial Department of Facebook

  1. Bill says:

    I just encountered this issue when I had a show at the local library. Fortunately, the library staff was quite progressive — despite the fact that they usually receive complaints about exhibits that include nudity — and we agreed that I would not hang the nude works where they would be immediately visible to people passing by. But many libraries don’t allow nude works at all. (The local cable people did a piece on the exhibit and had no problem showing any of the work.)

    I think the problem is getting worse — primarily because the situation has created some strange bedfellows. In other words, it’s not just the standard cultural conservatives who have objected to nudity in art in recent years. Certainly some feminist critics have seen it as part of an attempt by male artists to sexually objectify female models, while many recent immigrants (at least in my city) come from non-Western cultures not descended from artistic traditions based on the nude. The truth is that there are a variety of groups which you would not usually associate with each other who aren’t thrilled by nudity in art.

    Ah, but the good news is that I didn’t receive any death threats 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Thanks for sharing your story about your library show. Sounds like things went smoothly and that’s good to hear. And I’m very glad you didn’t receive any death threats!

      You know, I think you might be onto something about the problem actually getting worse. I hadn’t given it much thought. This may sound silly, and I assure you I’m NOT naive, but do you remember the whole Janet Jackson exposed nipple incident at the Super Bowl halftime show? I think it was 2004. Anyway, even though I’m well aware of this country’s sometimes prudish tendencies, I was honestly surprised at just how big a deal it became. The “outrage” went on and on and on, for weeks, even months! Over a nipple. An exposed nipple hat lasted all of a millisecond! Of course, the media loves to plays things up to create scandal and ratings, and I expected it to be a “story” for a few days. But certain groups – the people who are so easily “shocked” and “offended”- dragged it on and took it soooo seriously! I remember thinking at one point. “Enough already!!! Let it go!!”. I was truly mystified at the emotions and how disproportionate they were to the actual incident – something you would have missed if you blinked.

      Ah well. This is going to keep happening I’m sure. Thanks for you comments, Bill.

      Claudia

      • Bill says:

        The Janet Jackson “incident” is a great example — it’s not really a matter of being prudish, I think, so much as being caught in a state of perpetual adolescence. People are shocked at even the most momentary exposure of nipple but, as you say, then they won’t stop talking about it. We see it as “naughty” and somehow “dirty”, but we’re also obsessed.

        It’s as though our society was stuck at the age of 14.

        (And yes, thanks, the show did go well. When my 88-year old mother started to invite her lady friends, I warned her about the nudity. She paused, then observed that they probably wouldn’t be seeing anything they hadn’t seen before.)

  2. Betty says:

    Thank-you so much for keeping me ( all of us ) on top of this stuff ! !

  3. Rob Hoey says:

    I totally concur–it’s offensive that they would be offended. It’s an insult to freedom of expression, particularly when that expression is artistic. To put this in the same category as pornography is like saying that Michelangelo’s work belongs in Hustler Magazine. On the other hand, perhaps this work is too titillating for their fragile libidos.

    • artmodel says:

      Rob,

      Thanks for your comments. Pornography, to me at least, is pretty easily indentifiable, and certainly in clear contrast to fine art. But there are many, many people who have trouble making the distinction, unfortunately.

      Claudia

  4. The sad thing is that I’m sure if someone wanted to post a photo of their gun arsenal Facebook would have no problem. We live in a sick, backwards society.

  5. ‘fraid I can offend everybody, I like both guns and poses! 🙂

  6. Fred says:

    I have a Facebook account but don’t post any artwork there. I just post links to my website and blog.

    Daniel Maidman regularly posts his nude paintings on Facebook. Not sure how he gets away with it. I suppose someone has to complain for FB to go into censor mode.

    I like a lot of art that is erotic, or experimental, or that challenges or pushes people’s buttons. I’d defend all of it, as long as it isn’t forced or sprung on people.

    Whenever I turn on a TV I see and hear things I find offensive. So I rarely turn on a TV.

    There are a lot of people who are invested in the delusion that humans are meant to be beings of pure spirit, and their having bodies is an evil trick of the devil. How sad it must be to be offended and disgusted by the human body, and yet to be locked inside of one!

  7. Gavin says:

    I’m stuck with FB if I want to stay in touch with friends from around the world, so I can’t complain about it too much. They also do allow nudes on the Lifeart page, but maybe it’s because either nobody has complained or they’re mostly pencil sketches.

    I think British puritanism has changed, rather than got better or worse. We never used to see willies on the telly, but boobs and fannies were ok after 9 (That’s a British fanny, which is round the front. American ladies visiting the UK are advised to remember this before shouting out that their ‘fanny hurts’. We’ll know what you mean, but will giggle like schoolboys anyway). Nowadays willies seem ok, but no fannies unless covered with a merkin?

    • artmodel says:

      Gavin,

      You are my trusted source of British vernacular. I love it.

      I will keep in mind the “fanny” distinction the next time I’m in Great Britain. But would it be acceptable for me to ask a hot British guy to show me his “willy”? 😆

      What is a merkin?

      Claudia

      • Gavin says:

        I can’t speak for all British men, but personally I’d expect a girl to at least buy me a bag of chips before asking;)

        A merkin is a pubic wig. I think there’s a bit of a worldwide merkin shortage right now because TV companies have discovered they can show all manner of full frontal nudity as long as it’s set in Ancient Rome.

  8. Andrew says:

    FB’s bullshit never ends. Here’s the latest…

    Facebook To Share Users’ Home Addresses, Phone Numbers With External Sites
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/28/facebook-home-addresses-phone-numbers_n_829459.html?ref=fb&src=sp#sb=979668,b=facebook

  9. Paul Darst says:

    I don’t care for Facebook. Everything I see posted there is short and trivial. Perhaps its best features are the posting of photos — which you could also do, however, and better, in emails with attachments — and the ability, sometimes, to find old friends on FB.
    On the whole, I much prefer emails or blogs.

  10. violinhunter says:

    This is interesting because I have uploaded some nude paintings of mine and have had no problem. Maybe nobody looks at my page?

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