Artist uses nude to highlight concerns

Artist uses nude to highlight concerns

Performance artists Ailbhe Hines (centre) with artist Bernadette Hopkins (right) and Aodán McCardle at the performance outside the ArtCo gallery in Letterkenny. Photo: Richard Noble

A Donegal artist has used a nude model in a piece of performance art outside a Letterkenny gallery where she says her work was not exhibited because of its use of nudity.

Bernadette Hopkins performed a version of  Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s painting ‘The Broken Column’ outside the Art Co gallery where an exhibition to mark International Women’s Day was being launched on Tuesday.

She said the performance was in response to censorship by galleries of women’s art.

Ms. Hopkins said she was due to exhibit in the gallery, which is supported by the HSE, this month. She said the exhibition was declined after management expressed concerns about the nudity in the work. 

Performance artists Áilbhe Hines and Aodán McCardle took part in the performance. Ms Hopkins said the performance addressed issues of freedom of expression. “We attempt to reclaim our rights as artists to freedom of expression and to tell women’s stories in a world where the female experience is still largely under-represented,” she said.

“The wider context was International Women's Day and the performance was essentially about inequality and power and how those in a position of power decide worth and control artistic language. There are many forms of suppression in society in the guise of ‘cultural and community’ sensitivity. Lack of freedom of expression denies us new ideas and discussion that is necessary in a healthy society.”

In a statement issued to the Donegal Democrat the HSE said: “The Art Co gallery endeavours to promote the visual arts in Donegal and, as is common practice in most art galleries, views artwork prior to exhibition.  In an effort to ensure that exhibits are compatible with its duty of care to the people who use the gallery as an aid to recovery, management is mindful of the range of issues that service users may have experienced. The Art Co gallery therefore exercises its right to select artwork that is suitable for the environment and meets the aims and objectives of the gallery.”