Chaos Theory 13: Randy Slack Decides Not to Accept Suzanne Falk's Painting -- Is it Censorship? (NSFW)
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.
Courtesy of Legend City Studios
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.
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."
Falk says her piece was a reaction to a critique of the show written by New Times art critic Kathleen Vanesian, who wrote:
Suzanne Falk "The Defenders of Sweet Dreams" 30x40 oil
"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."