(Former curator Astria Suparak in the exhibition "Faux Naturel" at Syracuse University's Warehouse Gallery in 2006.)
September 25, 2007
By Colin Dabkowski
There's a fiery situation bubbling up in Syracuse that should be of vital interest for anyone concerned about censorship in the arts. A young curator, Astria Suparak, has been fired by Syracuse University from her position as director of the Warehouse Gallery, a position to which she was named in 2006.
Accusations are being traded back and forth over the firing, which the university characterizes simply and cryptically as "a personnel issue." Hundreds of Suparak's supporters, however, claim that the firing was the result of her unconventional and risque curatorial approach, especially as it applies to the gallery's current show "COME ON: Desire Under The Female Gaze," which Suparak programmed. That the exhibition contains pictures of male genitalia and other potentially "unpleasant" elements is prompting many to speculate that Suparak was fired because her approach was rubbing university officials, like Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Jeffrey Hoone, director of the University's Coalition of Museum and Art Centers.
The most surprising thing about this case so far is the fact that hundreds of people have taken Suparak's side. They have, as is unimaginable for even larger issues in more apathetic communities, actually taken to the streets, as Suparak's supporters did on Sept. 20, to express their frustration over this incredibly unpopular move by the university.
As we've seen in Buffalo with the surprisingly vitriolic debate over the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's decision to sell off important parts of its treasured collection, when the integrity or quality of our artists and institutions comes into question, people rise up and get angry.
The best we can hope, for our community as well as Syracuse's, is that the powers that be listen intently and act according to the public they serve.