Friday, September 21, 2007

phoenix and salamander

Astria Suparak and the boundaries

It sounds like a band.

Astria Suparak, founding director of the Warehouse Gallery , a contemporary art gallery overseen by Syracuse University, my alma mater, has been dismissed by Jeffrey Hoone, overseer of the university’s art centers. His explanation is that the gallery is being restructured. Carol Brzozowski, dean of the Crouse College of Visual and Performing Arts, my college, states that the content of the shows Suparak curated had nothing to do with her dismissal. Sure. Most folks in the know say differently, that it was Ms. Suparak’s choice of topics for exhibitions. The New York Times quotes Suparak as describing her aesthetic as “…street art, riot grrl and D.I.Y.” An article in the Syracuse New Times, my old favorite (my friend J used to sell classified ads for them, weren’t they personal ads, J?) describes her latest exhibit, “Desire Under the Female Gaze” in this manner:

“Female artists explicitly express desire, fantasy, disappointment and pleasure in a variety of mediums to counterbalance the ubiquitous imagery of sexualized female bodies created for mainstream media.” Got all that? if not, just check out the website. At Mr. Hoone’s request, a sign posted at the entrance to the gallery currently reads “This exhibit contains work generally intended for mature audiences.” Oh quick, Mr. Hoone, save us from ourselves! Thank you so much for that edifying sign. I expected it to be about our love of shoes and shopping.

What rankles me about this (and here let me state that I agree with the faculty and students that assert that this is due to choice of show content and not ‘gallery restructuring’), is that if we cannot explore the more controversial aspects of art (and here let me state that I HARDLY consider this topic - female desire and mainstream sexuality - controversial) at a relatively liberal and private university, where can we explore it? And how can we assert that an artistic, educational institution is a place of inspiration, revelation and innovation if we restrict it at its rawest edge?

Of course, this exhibit is most likely not the straw that broke the uptight camel’s back. I don’t wonder that it was more likely shows from the past, or perhaps even shows from Astria’s lexicon that were never intended to be in Syracuse. (Many totally fascinating, by the way - check out her past exhibits on her website.)

All this stinks of corporate ties and money, money, money. Who is Syracuse University displeasing by keeping Astria and her partner Brett Kashmere on the payroll? Or is it a case of the right person for the job being offed in order to give her position to someone who brings more corporate money with them? It will be interesting to see who fills Astria’s sizeable, forward thinking and extremely funky shoes. I predict a safer, extremely calculated and dry replacement. Who is male.

Astria will be fine. She is a tremendous art mind, and her talents will be welcomed many many places where the powers are fearless and wise. That is where she belongs.

We, as students, faculty and alumni of Syracuse University and Crouse College, will not be so fine. We are discovering our pride in the limitless possibilities we were charged to develop sullied by the arbitrary boundaries enforced by a small group of people who have not our artistic freedom as a priority but corporate bargaining and abuse of power. Our trust and faith is broken. Where is S.U.’s spirit? Why are you no longer brave?

If you’d like to learn more about this situation, and voice your opinion, please check out the blog:

No comments:


Syracuse has lost one its greatest assets. Astria Suparak, Inaugural Director of The Warehouse Gallery of Syracuse University, was removed from her position as of Sept. 30th, 2007, despite widespread support from community members, students, faculty, and the international art community. This decision was made unilaterally by Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).

At the time of Suparak's dismissal, Hoone also canceled her forthcoming exhibitions, including "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," due to open in November 2007.