TRANSCRIPT: Ep. 217 No More Boring Art


Speaker 1:
It’s The Inspiration Place Podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to The Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. Now, your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman:
Well, hey there, my friend, it’s Miriam Schulman here, your curator of Inspiration. I’m bringing you a roundup of Artpreneur Flash Briefings for the week. Here’s what we’re talking about this week, really juicy, controversial stuff. You’re going to love it. Number one, should Instagram get to sensor art? Number two, why art is now boring? Number three, the dark side of Matisse. Then we are going to talk about Big Eyes, the art, Margaret Keane

Should Instagram get to sensor art? Well, whether we like it or not, they are. While Instagram’s guidelines are still vague on nudity and sexual activity and art, photography, their guidelines now explicitly allow for real world art that depicts implied or explicit sexual activity. Nevertheless, art is not being shown. In some cases, artists are having their accounts banned all together.

In an article, Censored: the exhibitions that Instagram doesn’t want you to see. And this is from The Art Newspaper. Emma Shapiro reports that galleries and artists are increasingly finding themselves at the center of heavy-handed suppression on the social media platform. Here is an example, The Little Black Gallery in London had its account deleted, not suspended, but deleted earlier this month, after making a congratulatory post about its partner gallery FAS44 in Las Vegas.

Now, I checked out the image that caused the account to get deleted and it’s just a silhouette of a woman reflected in the storefront window, not a mirror, but an abstracted reflection. You don’t see the woman’s face. You don’t see her flesh. You don’t see her pubic hair. You don’t see her genitalia. You don’t even see nipples. I’ve even seen Barbie dolls that were more sexual than this image. Yet, the image was flagged by Instagram as adult sexual solicitation.

Some other exhibitions with art posted online that got deleted by Instagram were more sexual in nature. Some examples were the exhibition Kink or the exhibition Cuntry, Cuntry, which is spelled C-U-N-T-R-Y. In the second case, though, the art was all clearly produced artworks, not photographs, and should fall under Instagram’s guidelines. Yet, they were still penalized. So, what’s the problem? Artists need a platform to be seen. Before Instagram, the platform was the exhibition space. During the pandemic, we relied again on Instagram. There really isn’t very much of an alternative.

Now, it should come as no surprise that the exhibitions that are facing censorship are those that are tackling themes of representation, diversity, identity, abortion, and sexuality. These are all rights that are under threat and debate, and therefore they’re fertile ground for artists. Gallerist Ghislain Pascal warns that, “The last few years have been tough enough for artists and galleries. And it looks like they’re going to get tough again with talks of a long recession without so called liberal social media companies censoring art.”

Now, I myself had a real tough time promoting my online art class, Go Figure, which is a watercolor painting class for painting the nude figure. Even my nipple free figure ads were banned as too sexy for the platform. Again, I’m not sure why my watercolors were considered racier than a Kim Kardashian selfie.

If you’re interested, by the way, in learning how to paint the figure, this spotlight class teaches you how to mix flesh tones and comes with photo reference guides. Don’t worry, all the models are of age. You can sign up for the class, it’s on sale by going to I do not advertise this class. This is the only way you get to hear about it. Again, All right, well, that’s it. Until tomorrow, you can get the links mentioned on Artpreneur Flash Briefings at the end of the week on The Inspiration Place Podcast. So, make sure you’re subscribed to it on your favorite podcast app.

A New York Times column by Michelle Goldberg caught my eye and I followed her down that rabbit hole. Goldberg is a columnist for Times Opinion. And she focuses on gender and politics, but this will not be a segment on gender or politics. This is going to be about cultural stagnation. So, do you like art that’s interesting and pushes boundaries or art that’s vanilla and boring? You probably said interesting, right? So, why has art gotten so boring? Maybe it’s because of that Instagram censorship we’ve been talking about.

Now, Goldberg, of course, must have gotten an advanced copy, as those in the media do, but she was talking about, in this Opinion piece, about W. David Marx’s new book, Status and Culture. I’m recording this at the end of August and the book comes out September 6th. So, when you’re listening to this, it will be out. I’m sure it’ll actually be in brick and mortar book stores, because when I looked at it on Amazon, it was already trending at the number two, number three, and number four spots for its three respective categories, probably because of The New York Times column. But also, it got endorsements from B.J. Novak.

So, when I saw the B.J. Novak, that one surprised me, since it’s nothing to do with Hollywood or television. Then it made me wonder if they were buddies in Harvard together, because Novak is always flouting his Harvard pedigree. So, I spent a good 10 minutes researching the author and bingo, yes, he was, the author has an Asian Studies degree from Harvard. Cynicism aside, I did order the book. If I do like it, I’ll be back to share if there’s any additional insights. If I really love it, I’ll track down the author for an interview. In the meanwhile, I’m going to share what Goldberg had to say about it. Because she did have some… I did learn some things just for meeting her Opinion piece about the book.

She said that although she agrees that current culture is boring, the book isn’t and, here’s what I’m talking about here today, artists play a very important part in cultural evolution. The author argues that people want to climb up in social status. In other words, social climb. And artists innovate to gain status and people consciously or unconsciously adjust their taste to signal their status tier in order to move up to a new one. He says, he writes, “Status struggles fuel cultural creativity in three important realms, competition between socioeconomic classes, the formation of subcultures and countercultures, and artists’ internecine battles.” Okay. Just so you know, I did not know what the hell internecine meant. In fact, I had to play, “Google, how do you even pronounce this thing?” I thought it was like nectarine, but it’s internecine.
Okay. Listen to this definition, destructive to both sides in a conflict. Boom. I love that. I love that definition. I don’t know if you notice, but I do play with that idea a lot on this podcast, which is why I’m so addicted to this art form. I’m doing that right now during the segment. I did it during my segment about Instagram and some of the upcoming segments that I’ll be sharing, you’ll see me doing that again. Sometimes, you can kind of tell what I think, sometimes you’re not so sure, it’s like stirring the pot, it’s kind of what The Real Housewives do on those Bravo shows.

Now, there are some really juicy examples in the book such as John Cage, but why is that not still happening? Where somebody like John Cage can shake up art and we’re stuck listening to Kate Bush songs from, whatever, 1987. So, why is art gotten so boring? Well, the author’s answer is in the conclusion, “The internet changes the dynamic because of the plethora of content. Cultural signals have become obliterated.” So, challenging art loses its prestige or maybe, it suggests as I reported, that Instagram is censorship happy.

Also, he said, “The internet levels the playing field. So, on the one hand, it’s actually good.” He argues, “People don’t waste time pretending to like things they don’t.” And their status is found through, and now these are my words, through adjusting their fake tans with Facetune photo filters, or taking a picture of them pretending to fly a private jet. Now, I’m guilty of the former, but I’ve never done the latter. Now, if you are an avid reader as I am and you want to get your hands on this book and probably check out some of the other books that I like, you will find that over in this resource,, I’ve linked up a bunch of books there. A lot of them, the authors have been on the show. I’m sure you’ll love that list.

Recently, at the MoMA, the curator just pulled together an exhibit, which they called The Red Studio. The Red Studio is a Matisse painting. It shows all the paintings that are… The painting that Matisse did is of the studio and what the exhibition does is it pulls all the objects and the paintings that are depicted in the painting into one single exhibition. I haven’t seen this particular exhibit. I have seen the painting, The Red Studio, many times because it is part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. The Red Studio, like I said, it features Matisse’s studio.
All right. What I want to share though, I have to give you a little trigger alert. If you find exploitation of women or minors triggering, then you may either want to skip this segment or you may want to just pause right now, pause this recording right now, take a few deep breaths to ground yourself before we continue. Or like I said, you can skip.

The painting in question is on the left of the studio. So, it’s on the left of the painting of the studio. That painting shows a nude surrounded by flowers, daisies to be exact, nothing seems shocking so far, right? Well, who is the nude model? Well, in an earlier 1911 painting called The Painter’s Family, which was commissioned by the Russian patron Sergei Shchukin, are Matisse’s two sons, his wife and his daughter. The daughter in the painting The Painter’s Family is wearing a dress covered in, you guessed it, daisies. His daughter name is Marguerite, which is French for daisy. So, you can conclude that the nude in the canvas on the wall of The Red Studio is Matisse’s daughter, who was 16 or perhaps 17 at the time.

The canvas of the nude in the painting directly faces an empty chair. That is a chair, I guess, for us, the viewer to sit in and gawk at his naked teenage daughter. And Matisse’s generously placed a candy dish next to this chair, so we can eat the candy while looking at his naked teenage daughter. Now, the author of this article, who had pointed out these art historical connections, which by the way, I never actually knew this at all. So, the author is Blake Gopnik and he makes all kinds of apologies for Matisse. “Oh, well he didn’t intend us to be the viewers. The main viewer of the painting was the rich Russian who commissioned it.” Like, it’s okay that Matisse was getting paid to pimp out his daughter, teenage daughter, his 16 year old daughter?

Somehow Gopnik also refers to Matisse’s “long suffering family,” which I’m not sure I agree with either, since Matisse was the oldest son of a very wealthy grain merchant. He initially practiced law before he decided to become a full-time artist. There’s definitely no starving artist backstory here. He also enjoyed the patronage of Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as the Cone sisters who actively collected his art. So, the Russian collector was not his only option.

Okay. I’m just going to put this out there. I really think it’s creepy for a 41 year old father to paint his 16 year old daughter. In fact, I would think it’d be creepy if I painted my daughter, even though she’s 24 now. I just think that’s kind of creepy. So, please don’t tell me that times were different and, “Oh, they were French.” And, “Oh, by the way the author said his wife… He told his wife about it, so that made it okay.” No, it doesn’t, because either it means she was complicit in this exploitation or she wasn’t happy and he did it anyway. And I’d be willing to bet it’s something closer to the latter, because she did end up divorcing him, by the way.

Now, although I still like Matisse’s art. I’m not going to say I’m banning his art. I’m not telling you to cancel his art. But I’ll be honest, I’m no longer going to be able to look at Red Studio untroubled by this backstory. All right, my friend, I want to know what you think. Head over to my Instagram. I’ve posted The Red Studio on my feed, unless Instagram has censored it. My Instagram handle is @schulmanart, S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N-A-R-T. I’d love to know what you think.

Margaret Keane, who was born Peggy Doris Hawkins, she was born in September 15th, 1927, an American artist known for her paintings of subjects with big eyes, which means September 15th is her birthday. She also recently passed away on June 26th, 2022. So, whoa, she lived a really long life, didn’t she? 90, somebody do the math for me. What is that? 95? She painted women, children, animals in oil and mixed media. The work achieved commercial success through inexpensive reproductions on prints, plates and cups. And it has been critically acclaimed, but also criticized as formulaic and cliché.

The artwork was originally attributed to Keane’s ex-husband Walter Keane, and after their divorce in the 1960s, Margaret soon claimed credit, which was established after a court paint-off in Hawaii. A resurgence of interest in Keane’s work followed the release of the 2014 movie by Tim Burton, I highly recommend you see it, Amy Adams is fantastic in this role. The movie is Big Eyes. Definitely add that movie to your binge list. For many years, she maintained a gallery in San Francisco and she did have good financial success after leaving her husband.
Now, one thing I wanted to share, to bring, that was new, that is not covered in the movie, the movie didn’t really explain why she liked to paint big eyes. I thought this was really important. When she was two years old, her eardrum was permanently damaged during a mastoid operation, unable to hear properly, she learned to watch the eyes of the person talking to her to understand them. Now, if you’re struggling to gain recognition, you don’t have to wait for a husband to claim credit and bring you to fame. You can get recognition on your own. I think you would love this episode I did with senior media coach Lynya Floyd, it’s episode number 170, Top Insider Publicity Secrets. If you want to listen to it, head on over to

Let’s sum up what we talked about this week. First, we tackled the thorny issue of censorship when it comes to photography and art that depicts nudity or sexual content. An article in The Art Newspaper explored how Instagram is censoring art, and also shutting down artists who depicts nipples or art that they deem too sexy for its social media apps. On the flip side, we discussed why art is now boring because of the internet, as explained in a new book by W. David Marx, probably because of all that Instagram censorship. Marx’s new book, Status and Culture, it just came out September 6, his book is How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change. Status and Culture is about how the individual desire for social status explains most cultural phenomenon and also explains the cultural stagnation we see today thanks, in part, to the growing internet.

Next, we explored the ethics of painting a 16 year old in the nude when the model is the 41 year old father, even though the painter is Matisse. Yes, he painted his daughter naked when she was a minor, but also fully developed as a woman. Finally, we took a pause to remember Margaret Keane, who passed away this summer.

Now, remember, you can enjoy these weekday doses of inspiration through the Alexa app as Flash Briefings. These are called Artpreneur Flash Briefings. Or in the roundup episode on Fridays on The Inspiration Place Podcast, you can find links to everything we talked about during the week., you’ll find links to books, art, related podcasts, and more. To make sure you don’t miss a thing. Be sure you’re following The Inspiration Place on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Well, that’s it. Until next time. Until then, stay inspired.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart. And of course on


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