Senior Visual Arts Major Puma McFadden’s studio space is something out of a magazine.
Light pools into her workspace where paintbrushes and pastel abstractions of the female form cover every wall and surface. Unfortunately, this is the only space on campus where McFadden’s work can be found.
McFadden recently submitted her artwork for display on a wall behind the staircase on the first floor of the student union. This wall acts as a rotating showcase for student work, hidden away in the heart of campus.
Reportedly, McFadden’s work was rejected due to its content. She was only informed that nudity would not be allowed on the wall after an email from a student union staff member was forwarded to her. Mc- Fadden is still unclear on who made this decision, as she was given no information directly.
“I want to empower women, and I’m not even getting that opportunity at a women’s university,” says McFadden, “I think it is absolutely censorship. I think that art is meant to make people talk…and, in censoring that, I think they were just trying to avoid conversations that they don’t want to have.”
For McFadden, this isn’t about a wall, but about the social implications of sexualizing and censoring the female body.
“I know it’s not necessarily a big deal that no nudity is allowed on this wall, but it stacks up against the bigger picture. Nudity and sexuality are so separated, and I think that’s what my art is trying to shed light on. It’s meant to be empowering for women of all shapes and sizes, or people who have these parts and are proud of them. I think that it’s really important to get comfortable with the figure and with people. I think that we’re all adults, and we can handle it.”
McFadden makes it clear that there is nothing but positive intentions behind her art. “This is not meant to be vulgar… and I’m not looking to make anybody angry with my art. I choose pastel colors and nice sparkly paint because I want you to be able to look at it and think and converse about it. It’s about making a subject that’s kind of hard to talk about easy to look at.”
While McFadden has received immense support on and off campus, she continues to run into roadblocks when trying to exhibit her work outside the walls of the art building.
“Twice a week I’m drawing from life, and most of the time it’s a nude model. That’s what makes me so proud to go [to TWU] – that I have that opportunity and often. But then the product of that is all of a sudden taboo. The fact that they will pay someone to stand nude in front of me and allow me to draw from life, but then won’t let me present that work, just doesn’t compute. I’m still trying to figure out where my work will even belong.”
Above all, McFadden hopes to spark positive dialogue and productive conversations at TWU.
“I don’t want anybody to think that I’m out for blood… but I also don’t want anybody to think that I’m going to stay quiet,” says McFadden, “I just want our students to know that, even at a women’s university, we’re still dealing with issues concerning women and their bodies. Something that’s not even a photograph or realistic is still considered shameful, and that’s not how it should be.”
Additionally, she hopes to encourage support and self expression among the student body. “I think that it’s important for students to know that we should have a voice. I also want them to know that there’s someone on campus making art for women and for everybody in between.”
Regardless of whether or not her hopes for students manifest, there is one thing McFadden is absolutely certain of: “I’m not going to change what I’m doing to get something in that frame or to make people feel conformable. That doesn’t help anybody.”