On April 19, Stephen Kelly, a fourth year Illustration major, received a notification from his instructor stating that his work was being removed from the senior illustration art show, a day after it opened. Citing objectionable content, Bausch & Lomb’s Geisel Gallery took down a total of seven student pieces. These works included a range of subjects from cigarettes to sexuality.
In past years, the show was held at Gallery r; but this year, with Gallery r in the process of relocating, the show was moved to the Geisel Gallery. Gallery r, however, facilitated in the planning and set up of the show.
The removal of the art appears to be a miscommunication between Gallery r, the event organizers, RIT and the Geisel Gallery. As Arthur Wang, a fourth year Illustration major, put it, “We didn’t ask what was appropriate, and Bausch & Lomb didn’t tell us what was appropriate.”
The Bausch & Lomb gallery was unavailable for comment.
According to Wang, the gallery is open to the public, making it likely that Bausch & Lomb did not want to take any chances of tarnishing their image.
Wang had several submissions removed from the show, including an illustration depicting the back of a woman, which was to be used in the gallery’s promotional poster. A piece depicting a cowboy robbing a bank with a gun and another showing a cartoon character smoking a cigarette were also removed. While he’s displeased that his work was removed, Wang doesn’t blame the gallery. “Censorship sounds like a pretty hard word. I understand where [the owners] are coming from.”
For Wang, the worst part of the situation was finding out his art wasn’t going to be in the show on the day it was scheduled to be hung. “We got all of our work framed. Mine cost somewhere from 130 to 150 dollars,” he said.
Kelly’s piece, depicting a silhouette of a man beating an old woman with a cane, was removed from the show. Kelly, however, wasn’t aware that his work was removed until after it was scheduled to be showed. He said, “I can see why people are outraged, but I understand why they [removed the art]. Still, it would have been nice to get some warning ahead of time or a formal notice.” Kelly didn’t receive any indication from Bausch & Lomb that his piece was being excluded; the only official notice he received was from his professor.
Joanna Eberts, a fourth year Illustration major, is spearheading a movement to showcase student work at a separate gallery. The alternative gallery showing is scheduled to open May 6, the weekend after the April 29 illustration art show closing reception. The show will feature the removed artwork from the senior illustration show as well as pieces from other RIT students and alumni. It will be held at the Hungerford Gallery in downtown Rochester.
Editor’s Note: Stephen Kelly and Joanna Eberts are illustrators currently employed by Reporter.