McNay rejects the San Antonio artist’s piece because of its sexual content; 5 artists leave the exhibition, citing censorship

The McNay Art Museum has rejected an artwork it requested, sparking a storm over artistic freedoms. The controversy stems from the work of Sarah Fox.

“I am an artist, an educator and a mom,” she said.

The McNays had contacted eight artists, each asking them to create a work inspired by a piece of their choice at the museum.

“I chose a piece by artist Käthe Kollwitz. It was an expressionist impression,” Fox said. “An etching of that kind of tired working-class woman with clenched hands and exhausted eyes. And that really spoke to me. »

Fox offered McNay three different artistic avenues she could take to create her piece: creating a quilt, making lithographs, or a puppet show video.

“And I showed them an older puppet show I had done that was this bunny twerking and twirling and chain-smoking through a fit of heartbreak and getting drunk. So they already knew the kind of work I was doing,” she said.

The McNays chose the puppet show, and Fox got to work. A year later, she showed the almost complete video of what she had created: a fictional date between a fox and a rabbit, both puppets.

“Then the last scene is the scene that McNay had a problem with. They go back to the Fox’s apartment and they kiss and then there’s a sexual encounter, but it’s papier-mâché and it’s puppets. I wanted it to be silly and funny,” Fox said.

The McNays declined to speak to us, but in a statement they said, “The video Sarah Fox created for the exhibit does not adhere to the exhibit’s focus on our founder, Marion McNay, her original bequest, his house and land. The artist’s decision to deviate from the exhibition’s original thesis – and subsequent refusal to work with the Museum’s curatorial team to realign with the orientation of the exhibition – is not in phase with McNay’s co-collaborative process.

Fox argues that the portrait has been inspiration, a sort of springboard.

“I wasn’t doing a line of Käthe Kollwitz. I was using it as inspiration to create a new piece of contemporary art,” Fox said.

And that starting point went straight to contemporary issues.
“I created a puppet show that deals with women’s rights. The work is about women’s bodily autonomy, sexual freedom, and it pushes back against the government’s attempt to silence and control women’s bodies,” she said. “But it’s a comedy, so I like trying new things like camp and comedy to give viewers an entry point into working on serious issues.”

In the statement, The McNay noted, The curatorial team of the exhibition also invited the artist to submit an alternative work, to which the artist refused.

Fox understands the job is a little edgy for some.

“I tried to work with them and have them put it in a little room with a warning so people can choose whether they see it or not,” she said. “I have a son; I take him to museums. They didn’t want to do that either.

Fox was notified by email that The McNay was withdrawing its offer to exhibit her work. She says that this whole case has been very difficult.

“It’s been devastating and humiliating and so disappointing,” Fox said. “But the way the artistic community has supported me through it all has been really amazing and really encouraging.”

Five of the other artists who exhibited in the salon withdrew their works in solidarity. And now there is this development.

“We just had a meeting with all the artists last night who had their work, and we’re going to stick together and have a group show, hopefully in March at the Blue Star Arts Complex. They give us space to accommodate work,” she said.

So even though his video won’t be exhibited at the McNay, it will be.

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