Portrait of Ms. Ruby May, Standing
Artist: Leena McCall
Date of Action: August 2021
Confronting Bodies: The Mall Gallery
Description of Artwork: Leena McCall’s oil painting of her friend, entitled Portrait of Ms Ruby May, Standing, features the model smoking a pipe and wearing a fur-trimmed vest and short trousers, unbuttoned to reveal her cleavage and a strip of black pubic hair.
The Incident: Ms McCall was told by the Society of Women Artists (SWA), who hired the gallery space for the exhibition, that her artwork had been deemed too risqué by gallery curators. The Mall Gallery said: “As an educational arts charity, the federation has a responsibility to its trustees and to the children and vulnerable adults who use its galleries and learning centre. After a number of complaints regarding the depiction of the subject and taking account of its location en route for children to our learning centre, we requested the painting was removed.”
Results of Incident: The gallery offered her the opportunity to replace her painting with another work, but she said that would be tantamount to admitted there was something wrong with it.
Instead, she has set up a social media campaign under the banner #eroticcensorship – to see if she can get people talking about sexuality in that medium instead.