April 3rd, 2009 5:33 pm | by Megan Brescini News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Updated: Nemo Censors its Own Art Show

"this will only hurt forever" by Jonny Fenix

"this will only hurt forever" by Jonny Fenix

Update: Scroll down for a new quote from artist Jonny Fenix.

Two things I have learned thus far: Many priests have an unsavory predilection for little boys behinds and sticking things in them, and good art encourages dialogue. If good art means, say, a painting of a priest in full regalia less pants, standing behind a boy bent at the waist less pants, then so be it. ("this will only hurt forever" above by local artist Jonny Fenix) As sure as the light streams though the stained glass to illuminate this inglorious scene in all its colorful horror, so will we be discussing why any church allows such abuses. See, we're talking about it right now.

However, you most likely will not be talking about this issue, or the erasure of indigenous cultures and religions at similar hands (see "a note to all indigenous people everywhere" below, also by Fenix), if you go to tonight's First Friday art show at Nemo Designs, which just happens to be "Time For Lions: Artwork of Blake Britton and Jonny Fenix." Though Britton's work is no less provocative, Fenix's work slaps so hard that even a minds-eye-blind fool will feel compelled to voice their reaction. Which is why, at the request of a few employees of Nemo, Fenix has been ordered to remove his two most “offensive” paintings, or lose the entire show. He chose to remove them. And there you have it; censorship in the fine arts. Might as well put a bra on the Venus De Milo and call it China.
"a note to all indigenous people everywhere" by Jonny Fenix

"a note to all indigenous people everywhere" by Jonny Fenix

The gallery's curator, Heather Hanrahan, is none to pleased with the decision, though she says she understands the difficult position that company's owners are in. "They want their employees to feel comfortable,” says Hanrahan. “but I think that censoring the artist and their work is unacceptable. Especially in 2009 in Portland Oregon. These pieces are meant to be jarring, and make you say, 'Hey wait a minute, why is this happening.'”

Trevor Graves, owner of Nemo, said it is a place of business, the employees come first and foremost, and they're offended. He says this is the first time he's had to pull art from a Nemo show.

“It's my house, my rules,” he told WW when we called to ask about the removal of Fenix's two paintings.

In a move that felt like damage control, Graves also suggested that this controversy “could be a Janet Jackson move to get everyone intrigued in what is happening.” I don't believe him.

The paintings are controversy in themselves, and keeping the public from viewing them will only detract attention from what should be a healthy discussion on their subject matter, and put it again on the ubiquitous issue of censorship.

Updated Friday, April 10: “The dialog was kiboshed! Those pieces are meant to evoke dialog," says artist Jonny Fenix. "I love Nemo, they are good to me, but they are covering their asses. I don't think they wanted to censor me, or my show, but they sided with people that are down with still hanging people from trees, and dragging women by their hair, you know? It is a strange, dangerous side to have taken. But I will keep showing. I put a black poster where the paintings should have been that says “you've been saved from seeing.”

Fenix also said that he would have pulled the show completely, if it were a solo show. But as it is, he didn't want to ruin it for his buddy Blake Britton, who is a partner in the show with him.

Nemo presents A Time For Lions: The artwork most of the artwork of Blake Britton and Jonny Fenix. The shows opening reception takes place 6-10 pm tonight, Friday, April 3 at Nemo, 1875 SE Belmont St. The show will run through Monday, April 27.
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