Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Out On My Arts, Again
I had offered some time ago to allow the Griffith REVIEW to reproduce one of my Dangerous Career Babe series – The Trophy Wife – as the cover illustration for its November edition. I also proposed a short, diaristic essay about my evolution as a so-called 'sex positive' painter (thanks, Gawker!) along with a photo essay exploring the creation of The Trophy Wife. All were accepted.I've enjoyed a good relationship with Griffith REVIEW for a couple of years. I first met Julianne Schultz, the editor, in 2006, through one of its regular contributors, Creed O'Hanlon. He'd suggested I should submit an idea to Julianne for the cover of a forthcoming edition focussed on young, up-and-coming writers. It was titled The Next Big Thing. I ended up donating an original design for The Next Big Thing's cover and contributing an essay (for which I was paid) about my early education as a painter. At my own expense – small journals are notoriously underfunded – I schlepped to literary gabfests in Sydney, Newcastle and Byron Bay to spruik the edition. With the cooperation of Andy Dinan, I offered Julianne the use of MARS Gallery during my exhibition of Voodoo-inspired watercolours, Venus In Hell, for a Melbourne event promoting The Next Big Thing and featuring Julianne and her protegé, Marni Cordell, who co-edited the edition.Things soured a little (but only a little), last year, when a second essay of mine was spiked because it was deemed to be libellous – a good call, as it turned out, by Griffith REVIEW's Sydney-based legal adviser. I was happy to get involved with yet another Griffith REVIEW edition, this year, SexPowerMoney. It was for this edition that I offered the use of The Trophy Wife for the cover. The image straddled (so to speak) the gamut of everything promised in the edition title.I emailed a digital file of the painting to both Julianne Schultz and the Griffith REVIEW's production office on the Griffith University campus on 16th June. Julianne called to thank me. I had already sent her the text essay at the length we'd agreed. She'd rung me to say she she liked it. I began assembling images for the photo essay. On the 17th June, I invited Julianne to be the lead speaker at the opening of PORNO. I wanted to make sure there were no illusions about the content of PORNO. My respect for Julianne was such that the last thing I wanted was for her to be surprised or embarassed. Five days before the opening, I sent her an email with links to my blog discussing the works in detail. I referred her to my home page, which featured one of the sexually explicit works on paper that form The Lin Triptych. "The show will consist of 14 black and white photographs, and 15 colour photographs, all hand printed," I wrote. "Some are portraits, some more explicitly sexual, but none are distasteful or gratuitous." The widely publicised title of the show didn't leave much to the imagination.PORNO was probably, umm, a lot more porn than Julianne expected – or wanted to be associated with. After making a short, somewhat uncomfortable speech, she made an excuse not to join me at the post-show dinner. A week later, Julianne asked the gallery to return Griffith REVIEW promotional material featuring 'my' cover which she had originally asked the gallery to distribute before and during the opening.I might not be mad or bad – some might argue otherwise – but I was dangerous for a well-regarded academic with high-placed connections to know, let alone to be seen with in public.I heard nothing more from Julianne until the end of last week, when I received a few, vague, somewhat gelid communications about cutting back the number of photos in my proposed photo essay. This evening, I rang to find out what the real problem was. After some hemming and hawing, Julianne told me that it had to do with the cover – specifically, the very short skirt worn by The Trophy Wife was too suggestive. Maybe I could make it longer and more demure? No. After all, this was one of my paintings and emphatically not a commissioned illustration that an editor, publisher, or production manager could 'touch up' on a whim to address some ill-defined matter of propriety or political correctness. The Griffith REVIEW had had the image for nearly two months and until now, no-one had expressed a concern about it to me.Of course, I knew the cover wasn't the issue. I was. My most recent work was. And now I was being 'handled' – and that's always a waste of time and energy. I withdrew the cover, the essay and the proposed photographic essay. "Well, ok," Julianne said, "As long as you're ok with that." I hung up.