Chaos Theory 13: Randy Slack Decides Not to Accept Suzanne Falk's Painting -- Is it Censorship? (NSFW)

Categories: Visual Art

chaostheory3.jpg
Courtesy of Legend City Studios
Randy Slack doesn't like to be called a curator, but for the last 13 years he's invited members of the arts community to participate in his art show, Chaos Theory.

The event has grown -- bigger and faster than Slack ever imagined -- and this year, more than 60 artists are on the bill for a one-night show in downtown Phoenix.

While Chaos Theory is known to showcase all levels of work by artists in all formats, Slack still keeps a close eye on what goes up on the walls and what doesn't make the cut. This week, he learned the hard way that curatorial decisions cause quite the ripple, thanks to social media.

See also:
Legend City Studios Announces Chaos Theory 13
In "Chaos Theory XII," the Decent Art Easily Stands Out Among the Rest
Can/Should Anyone Curate an Art Exhibition?


Over the phone on Thursday evening, Suzanne Falk describes dropping off her piece to Slack's Legend City Studios. The local painter's been invited to showcase her work since the event's inception. But this year, things were a little different.

"I went and dropped off my painting yesterday," she says. "And I'm not naive. I assumed there was going to be a little bit of a fuss, but I never imagined that the delivery of the piece would be the issue."

meowmeowfalk.jpeg
Suzanne Falk
"The Defenders of Sweet Dreams" 30x40 oil
Falk says her piece was a reaction to a critique of the show written by New Times art critic Kathleen Vanesian, who wrote:

"While Suzanne Meow Meow Falk's The Defenders of Sweet Dreams displays the artist's usual mastery of her medium, I just wish she would venture out of her comfort zone and mix a little acid with the sweetness of her nostalgic still-lifes."

"I took it hard," says Falk. "I spent months on that piece for the Chaos Theory Show ... so this year, I wanted to be a little campy, to call out some of the misogyny I've seen in other pieces in the show -- I wanted to kick the box a little."

Falk's piece is a 5-by-7-inch oil on canvas titled "in heaven, everything is fine." She describes the painting, which features a number of young men in a circle jerk, or group masturbation, as something she's been interested in doing for a while. "I'm working on this body of work while I'm doing my other stuff. I thought it'd be a good opportunity to get some feedback from people who know me and know what I normally do."

Slack didn't bite. He says that while the piece didn't offend him, it didn't fit with the mission of the show and was inappropriate for the all-ages audience that usually floods the huge studio/gallery space on Van Buren.

"It's a great painting," says Slack. "And if she approached me earlier, we could have made a booth or something. An hour before she came by, I told Eric Cox (another local Phoenix artist) that I couldn't show his piece because the imagery and message. He understood and gave me something else ... So I had already drawn a line in the sand. I think people need to understand that I have so much to consider when putting this show together -- including the 1,000 people who are going to be here."

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Legend City Studios

521 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, AZ

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85 comments
giveahoot
giveahoot

Great art show Friday.

This wonky thread is hard to follow, but i got through it.

 

Didn't something like this happen last year??

 

At least this time you can better isolate the cankers.

Insightful contributions steampunk handpuppet plagiarist dude. Ha!

Although Ms. Falk seemingly approves of you few lobbing empty malatovs at, ...well everyone, you aren't doing her any solids.

 

oh.phoenix
oh.phoenix

Yawn.  You take the shock value of of the piece & you're left with nothing.  I don't care whether it's boobies OR wieners OR vaginas...it's all a big yawn,,sooooo shocking.....It's adolescent, I'm sure Suze knows that....It appears to be a reactionary piece, and really, not a great one at that.  I bet she knows that, too.  She's an awesome painter, but no one's going to accuse her of being a mature one.

dain.gore
dain.gore

I think what irks me most--and perhaps I'm simply inferring here--is Kathleen's statement. She seems to imply that Suzy's work is invalidated because it's (partially) a response to the review last year. I think Suzy's work has been anything but safe if you allow yourself to actually read beyond much of the surface of the imagery (which is one of the things encouraged at most art schools) and look at the psychosexual undertones of much of the work. Her latest work is in fact (in my view) a more overt statement of much of the work dismissed as simply still lifes.

Leros
Leros

Randy has been 'censoring' me for 14 years.

:(

It is his pad.

 

Sigh... maybe next year.

Unimpressed
Unimpressed

Yawn...typical Suzie Falk stunt. Not nearly as inappropriate as showing up with steampunk/handpuppet guy in an attempt to upstage Clint & Lara at their own wedding. I give it a 3/10 on the S.O.F.A. (Scale Of Falk Antagonism).

elS82
elS82

Falk needs to get over herself. Slack made the right decision for an ALL AGES show. Its egos like Falk's that is the problem in the Phx art scene

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

Was at the show last night and really enjoyed it.  The art was very good and fairly diverse.  I had my 10 year old with me and appreciate Slack's courtesy in making the show an environment in which a 10 year old could approrpiately view and appreciate the works that were displayed.

hroberts
hroberts

Remind me not to invite her to dinner. She will probably shit in the living room. No sense of shared responsibility or common good anymore. What happened to her?

I loved her real style before the polar shift.

FWMR
FWMR

What seems lost in all this is that Falk's depiction of a circle-jerk is a truly apt metaphor for the Downtown art scene, and the Chaos Theory show in particular: Bravo!

DDauncey
DDauncey

good points raised by both "sides",however the veto power does lie at the feet of Randy and his fellow studio mates.if something crosses their thresh-hold and they do not like it,then that is justt about the long and short of it.i have seen the piece.i like it.it is well done,and reminds me of something from a 50's softcore mag or something,minus the softcore part,of course.i hope she sells it,but really,i dont care.i do have a problem with my friend being labelled a 'homophobe.' If you do not happen to like 8 or 9 cocks in various states of tumescence,it does not translate to gay hating.i personally get up to make the tea when i see straight people making out in movies,and i do the same when ever i see 2 guys kissing.does this mean i am a homophobe?no,because i am too lazy.Suzy volunteered the fact that she could not procure the $20 needed (or suggested) to enter into the show,so randy helped out by offering to buy,or buying a piece from her for $50.again,good points made,good discussion,but put the homophobe shit to bed,for reals.....david dauncey.

kimberly
kimberly

The artist did this piece solely to ruffle feathers of the art critic and to garner attention for herself without regard for the community or other participants of Chaos Theory. Poor judgement on her part.

wayne146
wayne146

While I strongly agree that there exists a double standard in the world of Art regarding female nudes, her point could have been made much better by producing a quality work rather than this "shock for shock's sake" piece.If I had a nickel for every time a work I submitted to a group show was rejected (whether fair or unfair), I wouldn't have to work for a living- a true Creative always has a plan "B", and I think Eric Cox is a shining example of true professionalism in regards to Ms. Falk's immature reaction.Because she's acting like a dumped tween, no one will get to see her work, and a vital opportunity has been lost for self promotion, even with tthe extra juice provided by his soon to be forgotten tempest in a teapot.In the end, it is the Gallery's call as to what gets shown, not the Artist who painted it. If you don't like that concept, heck- open your own space and show whatever you like.Taking to FaceBook in the manner of a twelve year old and boycotting the show over a bruised Ego is just stupid, if not disrespectful to the Arts community in general.respectfully,Wayne Michael Reich (http://WayneMichaelReich.Blogspot.com)PS: I'll be at Chaos by 8, so if anyone has a severe dislike of my opinion, feel free to come over and discuss it with me in a civil fashion.

perisarc
perisarc

Well really what it all comes down to is that it's two things and one thing is different than the other thing. ANYONE CAN SEE THIS! It's really a clear choice of what's right and wrong here and it's really a situation that's quite a situation.

phxjustice
phxjustice

I love "in heaven everything is fine".  It is an incredible painting and anyone should be proud to be having it hang (no pun intended) where ever.  Art is supposed to challenge and this painting definitely does and does it well.

thecasualobserver
thecasualobserver

so, nudity isn't allowed by alcohol & sexualized women are? that sounds fair.

jose602
jose602

http://downtowndevil.com/2012/10/05/31925/chaos-theory-gallery-to-display-wide-scope-of-artistic-styles

 

More than 60 artists will be involved in the free, one-night public show from 6 p.m. to midnight, featuring painting, photography and sculpture. The only stipulation is that artists show something reflective of their most current style, said James Angel, who founded the first Chaos Theory with Slack and David Dauncey.

 

“(It’s) a time for people to kind of take risks and step out of the box a bit and not stay so safe,” Slack said. “It’s more of an avant-garde thing.”

 

---

 

Whoops.

Room641A
Room641A

Wait a second, Randy Slack. So what you’re saying is the content of YOUR work which we’ve all appreciated for years now and features women in varying stages of undress is okay and Suzanne Falk’s isn’t? The same Suzanne Falk who got savagely criticized for her innocuous work in your show last year and decided to do something different this year, while your work was most recently on display at an art show put together by a certain nightlife promoter with whom you have more than a passing acquaintance with who’s suddenly a ‘curator’ and which work’s subject matter featured a topless woman with a slab of meat for a vagina? Do I have the facts of the matter right here that the central premise of your argument is based upon? Please correct me if I do not.  And that you told Suzanne Falk that she should go have children and then she would understand? Everyone knows you didn’t mean for that to sound the way it did, but it’s still an offensive thing to say to a female artist. These are all things that can’t be said in the article because it’s not the way journalism works, but it doesn’t make them any less true.  Another true thing is that the premise of the Chaos Theory show is that it operates as an invitational with pieces that the artists work really hard on, sometimes for months, with the work remaining sight unseen until drop-off. It’s a showcase of the best and the brightest that the city has to offer and most importantly, what they’re working on right NOW. That’s what everyone loves about the show, its immediacy and ambition. It’s always been a great kick off to the fall and to cooler weather and what might be termed as the art season here. But then somehow you have final say and the power to reject something all the way up until show time, because it’s YOUR space and moreover, so as NOT to offend the sensibilities of the larger crowd you are trying to program for? That’s bad business and also bad curating as it’s really not reflective of the direction that the artists might actually be taking and so perhaps it’s something that needs to be addressed in the future as this show and this city evolves. Otherwise you might get accused of artist on artist censorship which is pretty much socially unacceptable in other more developed art markets. In fairness to you, this town does suffer somewhat from a lack of actual curators and programmers who know what they’re doing and a long-time dearth of usable real estate and so that’s why we have always had so many artist run shows in non-traditional spaces. But it doesn’t actually make what happened here okay. We really can do better. And everyone knows you work really hard on this show and it is mad appreciated by a lot of people, myself included. But still. Also I’m not sure Kathleen Vanesian should be the go-to person in this article about what qualifies as censorship and what does not. Seems like there just might be a small conflict of interest there. Just saying though. Real talk.

 

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

Its his show and if he doesn't want to display porn that is his perogative.  There is a definite line between edgy and porn and Slack apparently felt that Falk crossed it.  I think she crossed it in a big way.  I'd think the same thing if half the figures in her painting were female instead of male so its not a gender issue but an issue of graphic-ness (if I may coin the word).  Slack was even willing to make an accommodation had he have had more time "And if she approached me earlier, we could have made a booth or something." (which is more than I would have done).

 

Seems like a big to do about a pouty artist insisting on displaying an inappropriate painting in an inappropriate venue.

jose602
jose602

People are getting hung up on the wrong things. I don't think anyone's disputing that Chaos Theory is Randy Slack's show and that he can't do what he wants. Calling it censorship is silly because, as was noted, Suzy Falk has other avenues through which to exhibit the painting.

 

What I think is at issue is *when* the line is drawn regarding making curatorial choices. If Slack is rejecting art as it's being dropped off (which happened to Falk and Eric Cox, according to the article), that seems to indicate that he's not being clear about what he's looking for when he invites artists to participate. If the goal is to have art that is appropriate for all ages, then that probably should have been mentioned alongside the invitations to participate. (Maybe that was the case, but it doesn't seem like it.)

 

All that said, yep, it's Randy Slack's show; he gets the final say. It's just unfortunate that miscommunication/lack of communication has lead to Falk not being in the show. In any case, Chaos Theory will still be a great show and Suzy Falk is still amazingly talented.

azlefty
azlefty

FTA:  "was inappropriate for the all-ages audience that usually floods the huge studio/gallery space on Van Buren."  This says it all he wants works that are appropriate for his audience and by doing  so exposes a larger group to non traditional art.

 

 If I had young Children I would not want them to see this anymore than I would want them to see a painting  of a heterosexual orgy

 

Just because you think edgy is going to a homoerotic circle jerk from bunnies does not make it so, it is called shock value, edgy skirts the  bounds of societal acceptance  while invoking thought debate and introspection, sorry but guys playing with their peeners in a group does not do that !

 

As far as Censorship goes, many should learn that  Censorship is something  the  Govt. does not private individuals! 

dain.gore
dain.gore

@giveahoot all zingers aside, no one has yet clarified if this is the first "All Ages" show in Chaos Theory's 13-year history of edgy, risk-taking art.

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

 @dain.gore

 Have you read "Con Art - Why you should sell your Damien Hirsts while you can" by Julian Spalding. http://www.amazon.com/Con-Art-should-Damien-Hirsts/dp/1475088434?  Mr. Spalding is a well respected former museum director in Britian who questions statements and interpretations regarding contemporary art like, " if you allow yourself to actually read beyond much of the surface of the imagery...and look at the psychosexual undertones of much of the work."  Just thought you'd like another perspective (which is one of the things encouraged at most art schools).

dain.gore
dain.gore

@Unimpressed context is everything Unimpressed. Interesting alias, by the way.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@elS82 this is the first time I've heard that a Chaos Theory show was "all ages." Convenient.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@wayne146 Wayne, could not make it to the show: was busy playing with my puppets :) I do see both sides of this issue; However I seem to be missing the part that Chaos Theory was ever an All Ages show. I think an excellent solution to this--especially if invited to show work sight unseen--would have been as simple as posting "Controversial Content: Parental Guidance Suggested"

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

 @phxjustice

 Or art is supposed to look nice.  Or art is supposed to make a serious social point.  Or art is supposed to compliment the couch in the living room.  Or art is supposed to reflect the mores and values of the society in which it was created.  Or art is supposed to tell a story. 

 

Art does a lot of things.  Often, art does something different for me than it does for you.  Often it does something different for me today than it does for me tomorrow.

 

What art does, and whether a particular piece does is well, is in the eye of the beholder.   I appreciate your opinion regarding this particular piece but respectfully disagree.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@jose602 Hmm. Sounds like a safe, "All Ages" art event ;)

sillyprotest
sillyprotest

 @jose602 

 

 

                 WOW! He forgot mention to bring your common sense!

gack
gack

 @Room641A

 

CORRECTION: "it's really not reflective of the direction "THIS PARTICULAR ARTIST" might actually taking"... the rest of us, we're good thanks.

 

You are referring to the21 and over Lambchop show. 21 and over. Nimrod.

 

It's true legit... "a pouty artist insisting on displaying an inappropriate painting in an inappropriate venue", pretty much nailed it. Real straight talk.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@jose602 Jose, it's really too bad your balanced view has been lost in this thread. Instead people seem to insist in attacking Suzy or Randy. All said, I think some clear ground rules for what constitutes an edgy, risk-taking (yet All Ages) art exhibit would have been nice.

phxjustice
phxjustice

 @azlefty Then you might want to keep them (meaning children) out of most museums and art galleries.

wayne146
wayne146

 @dain.gore: So what if he's possibly tailoring the show to have a wider audience? If he wants the show to evolve to gain further recognition, it's still his right to do so- this is much ado about nothing, something Falk excels at.My own personal story of dealing with Mistress Nutbar aside, she blew a perfect opportunity to address the issue she claims to care about, making herself look foolish and petty in the process.Boycotting the show was an overblown move in response to having her fragile ego bruised, no more no less. Eric Cox didnt flip out did he? No, because he's a professional.If anything, Suzy needs a refresher course in maturity.

dain.gore
dain.gore

@LegitQuestions

Hi Legit!

 

First of all, thanks for quoting me, it's quite flattering :)

 

I am definitely familiar with Hirst. and I am no fan. I would go one better and recommend a documentary by the much-missed Robert Hughes, called The Mona Lisa Curse.

 

I find Suzy's work to not be quite as artful as scamming the art world out of millions, so I think this argument is inapplicable.

 

Thanks for your time.

 

wayne146
wayne146

It seems you cant, my anonymous stalker.But that's okay, cause Lord knows I love my fans.PS: And if you really believed in what you're saying, you'd post under your real name. Shame you lack the cojones to do so. Maybe someday you'll be a real girl. :DYou and Falk would make a really cute couple.

jose602
jose602

 @sillyprotest  Additionally, there was no mention of people bringing their good times and their laughter, too. 

Room641A
Room641A

 @gack Fair enough. But the dilemma here is that Randy is self-admittedly an artist and not a curator, which makes his decision to reject Suzanne’s work akin to something like black on black crime. I’m not saying other artists shouldn’t show or protest or boycott or anything, but it is a flawed model.  Which makes Miss Falk’s piece sort of poignant, no? She didn’t do this for attention or controversy but clearly a comment on the nature of the show was part of the intention here. Which is actually sort of cool and not without precedent; I’ve seen work critical of the space, of the nature of the event, of gallery and museum administrators and political decisions by boards of directors etc in other cities. The difference there? It gets included in the show.

dain.gore
dain.gore

 @LegitQuestions again, not quite applicable here because Kathleen Vaneesian was quite vocal in her criticism (and who was the one I was critiquing), although I agree with the spirit of the argument. I would add John Cage's 4'43, simply because I like sound in my music.

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

 @dain.gore

 Kinda' like the art-wrold equivalent of music critics who were afraid to criticize John Lenon's Two Minutes of Silence, which was totally devoid of any music or sound.

QstionEvythng
QstionEvythng

 @dain.gore

 And you can always add the classic, The Emperor's New Clothes, which one can argue is where many art critics currently find themselves - too afraid to criticize junk because they are afraid that they themselves will be criticized for not being sophisticated enough to "get it."

dain.gore
dain.gore

 @LegitQuestions I would also add to the list

 

"What happened to art criticism?" by James Elkins"The End of Art" by Donald Kuspit

 

"After the End of Art (no relation)" by Arthur C. Danto

 

I'll make sure to give Con Art a read too, but I can't imagine it would have been better than Hughes' doco.

wayne146
wayne146

 @Room641A Actually, a "true professional" wouldn't have thrown a hissy fit and then taken to FaceBook like a spurned tween to bitch about what (at worst) amounts to a minor communication error between her and Randy.Oh God, she didn't get her piece shown. The Heavens are collapsing, and there is no Justice!Give me a break.This work that she created to prove something to an art critic from a third rate tabloid ranks far below her best work, and we all know it, as does she. A "true professional" would act like an adult and move on- shame she didn't have anyone in her life to learn that from.Being rejected is part and parcel of being an Artist, and if one cannot accept this reality, maybe they should consider another career path.Throwing a temper tantrum because you're to immature to hear the word "no" serves only to embarrass yourself- something she did spectacularly and publicly.Censored? Hardly. Self-serving? Definitely.

Room641A
Room641A

 @nimrod  Yeah, it worked for 13 years. No one said it didn't. It's a great show. And now maybe it's evolving. Bigger show, bigger crowds, more things spelled out on paper if need be. What's so wrong with that? I think Randy even would agree with that if he wants the show to keep thriving. Suzanne Falk has been an integral part of this community for as long as there's been a Chaos Theory. It's not like she just decided to wake up and throw a hissyfit this week for no good reason. She's a professional working mid-career artist. Some of the responses to this really have been sort of sexist. It's not like it'd be the end of the world for Randy to admit his mistake and then move on from here. Be the best thing actually.

nimrod
nimrod

 @Room641A  @gack

Really? Are you serial?

Where did she find you?

The model has worked for thirteen years.

Sleep on it and review your case in the morning prosecutor.

Room641A
Room641A

 @gack Or you know, spell out the ground rules. Don't just say the artist 'should have known better". That's heading backwards rather than toward the future.

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