Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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Featured Case: Laura Ferguson (painter)

Date: 2001

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Painting


Artist: Laura Ferguson

Confronting Bodies: The U.S. Senate Rules Committee

Dates of Action: April 2001

Location: eMotion Pictures: An Exhibition of Orthopaedics in Art Exhibition, Rotunda of Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., The United States of America

Description of Artwork: Ferguson's paintings depict nude female bodies with their skeletal systems showing through. The artist's work is an attempt to deal with her own disability: scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Ferguson draws her own body's skeletal system (based on X rays, MRIs and 3D scans) on paper previously treated with oil paints and bronze powders. None of the censored paintings contained full frontal nudity.


The Incident: The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons organized a large-scale traveling exhibition, which included works by artists with orthopaedic conditions. A selection of works was to be displayed in the rotunda of the Senate Office Building in D.C. A number of Ferguson's paintings, which had also been featured on the exhibition's publicity materials, were among those selected. The Senate Rules Committee rejected Ferguson's art claiming, initially and officially, that there wasn't enough space. Eventually, Tamara Somerville, staff director for Senate Rules Committee Chairman Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) admitted that Ferguson's paintings were censored because they featured nudity.

Results of Incident: The AAOS removed the exhibit from the Senate in its entirety and found an alternative venue for it: Southwest Washington's Millennium Arts Center.

Source: NCAC. Additional information: Washington Post, Laura Ferguson Web Site (http://www.etaoin.com/fer0.htm)

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

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