Art is in the Eye of the Beholder…

Posted: March 22, 2010 in Commentary
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Isn't it brilliant?!?

While greedily swallowing my lunch today at work, one of my midday meal buddies brought to my attention a recent controversy that had made the news. My stomach continued to audibly profess its desire for fulfillment, but I was able to wrestle my attention away from the plastic container of spaghetti in front of me, and listen. She told me that a mural had been painted in Times Square and was garnering quite a bit of backlash for the artist. After I finished my lunch, I went back to my desk and battled through my seemingly endless workload, then put in a few hours of over time just for the hell of it. Ahhh ha ha ha!! You didn’t believe that, did you? Come on!!! I did what any normal person would do. I Googled it as soon as I got back to my desk. Anyway, I saw the mural, realized why people could be offended by it, and watched a few videos of pedestrians complaining about it and/or praising the work. The artwork was done by Sofia Maldonado, a 26 year old Latina artist. For those of you that haven’t seen it, here is part of it…….

Now, Art is all about perception. Some people who disapproved of the mural argued that ‘Black and Latino women shouldn’t be portrayed as prostitutes and hoochies’. To that I say, because a woman wears a short skirt, does that mean she’s a prostitute? Big hoop earrings and knee-high boots make her a woman of the night?  Does a low cleavage line on a shirt mean that she’s accepting payment for pleasure? When I looked at the smaller aspects of the mural, like the four finger ring, the multi-colored hair and the big earrings as well as the long painted nails I realized that they are all a throwback to the past. All of these items were once trends in the urban community. That was my perception of it. Now, don’t get me wrong, the boobs busting out, and women bent over are a little risque, but this is a part of the artists style. I did a little searching and found past works by Sofia that were done in much “lower traffic areas” where women were painted pink, blue and even green. Some had shirts revealing cleavage, some weren’t even clothed. I’m not excusing the fact that they are “scantily clad” or not clad at all, but just saying that if they were painted a different color, in a different area, this wouldn’t be an issue. Being that they are in one of the busiest places on the planet they gain a lot more exposure.  Therefore, a lot more criticism.

To reiterate, art is about perception, as evidenced by the mixed reviews given by the public. When I saw the piece I didn’t see “hoochies” or “prostitues”, I saw an artists expression of her world, I saw talent in the form paint brushes dipped in creativity, and spread across a canvas of fearlessness. Nobody knows what the artist was thinking when she did the piece. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t out to portray Black and Latino women in a negative light. What do you think? Is this art degrading to women? Is it even art at all? Are people too sensitive? Comments are welcome…


  1. Dani B says:

    YES people are TOO sensitive but I can understand why women who walk past that mural everyday might be offended or annoyed. I don’t have a problem with the long, colorful, acrylic nails, the knee-highs, or the doorknockers. However, whether Black, White, or Puerto Rican, they look like hoochies to me. Actually I’d probably be convinced they were hookers had the women had olive toned skin, but that’s irrelevant. Anywho, the strung out appearance, the shirts that barely cover the nipples, and my favorite, the woman with the short dress bent over with her booty in the air looking like she’s about to pass out doesn’t scream sophistication, power, bravery, and respect to me. I don’t think it would be that big of a deal if she portrayed these women in all different lights but then again it’s HER work and HER interpretation of what she sees in HER world. The world would be boring if it weren’t for controversey and therefore I wouldn’t have anything interesting to talk about at lunch so kudos to her, I suppose.

  2. Kenlyn Tyree says:

    Interesting and shocking viewpoint Sir! Didn’t expect you to take the “artistic expression” side. With that said, so what makes her “artistic expression” gain acceptance and not films from Tyler Perry?

  3. Noemi Paz says:

    Everyone makes wonderful points!!! I see everything mention and it feels good to completely understand everyone’s view points… Controversy is essential and that’s the harsh reality. As i continue to go day by day with multiple questions about our society and existence, this painting brings a lot of new questions and answers for the others…Sophia could be speaking through what she actually sees, what she actually deals with,such as it may be a portrait including her that may having her feel like that’s how she may be viewed by the rest of society. It could touch upon the struggle between genders and so much more….Ultimately, art is most definitely about perception and i feel as though this picture could be perfect for some of my spoken word poetry. I often speak in a voice of a “how dumb do we look” or “this is the harsh reality of it, so what are we going to do?”.
    I am glad that this mural is made to show what men and women are accountable for, but i hope it doesn’t eventually become ingrained as something positive but more of something to say, “lets change..”

  4. I have many questions, but let me start with a comment: These may not be images of prostitutes but it’s certainly images of HOES.

    Q: Did you ever consider what effects, if any, these images would have on the psyche of Blacks Girls?
    Q: Given the opportunity to put your work on display in this way, did you feel any responsibility to the people you would be portraying?
    Q: Do you have any ties to the people who are represented in your work?
    Q: Did you notice the representation of White Women across the street from your work (Mary Poppins)?

    I am a Black Father of 5 Black Daughters. I discovered your work as I walked passed it in a crowd of White tourist and theater goers tonight. I wasn’t aware of it before tonight. I’m a photographer, I’m not easily offended. However, tonight or last night, I was offended to my core.

    I don’t question the art, it’s obviously art in my book. I really don’t even question you. I think you were/are a willing tool of others with a greater plan. I think you’re to young and to disconnected from the greater issues to really understand what you’ve done.

    If you wanted to depict the community of Jewish and/or Irish women who sold their bodies on the streets of NYC years before the idea even occurred to Black or Latino women, I don’t think those who are responsible for your work being there would have given you the same support.

    All I can say is that it’s true that youth is wasted on the young……in some cases.

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