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The Daily Tar Heel

Students self-censor phallic art

The UNC Studio Art Majors Association is made up of student artists who love displaying their work in Hanes Art Center. The association's art gallery in the building, though, is nothing more than a simple storage closet.

The group strives to redefine what creative expression means on campus, particularly when it comes to censorship in student art.

Senior Diego Camposeco, president of SAMA, said their storage closet is not a form of censorship by the school. Rather, the artists of SAMA decided to censor themselves.

“It’s more self-censorship than anything else,” said Camposeco, who used to work for The Daily Tar Heel as a photographer. “A lot of people self-censor — a lot of people don’t want to create controversy.”

While the space might seem bizarre, Camposeco said it's most important to create art that strays from what is expected, regardless of where it's being displayed.

“In the Hanes Art Center, artists feel that it is their space. They know their art will be valued more there,” he said.

Camposeco cited an exhibit that SAMA hosted last year in the closet space titled, “Coming In — An Art Show On Queer Aesthetics,” in which then-senior Andy Champion's sculpture titled “Devotion” featured 20 phallic wax candles and glitter.

“We had a penis altar in the show. If we put that piece in the middle of campus, it wouldn’t have the same effect,” Camposeco said.

Some students like junior Victor Foster, a member of the Undergraduate Art Association, want to see a serious reevaluation of the type of art being displayed on campus.

"I can definitely testify to the fact that there is a real lack of dynamic art around here," Foster said.

“To me, dynamic art is the type of art that takes you somewhere. It evokes feelings of love and regret, happiness and disgust. Art is supposed to make you feel human. I haven’t seen much of that kind of art around UNC."

Similar sentiments were expressed by another member of the UAA, freshman Kishan Rana. While he hasn’t been here long, he said disapproves of the idea of censorship.

“America is obsessed with social media and fitting in. We have unrealistic social standards and norms,” Rana said.

“It’s so stupid that women have to cover their nipples when men can freely expose them. We all have dicks and vaginas. What now? Embrace it." 

Camposeco said he has similar opinions about how social norms enforce censorship.

“It’s a form of censorship when people don’t want to stray from the norm because they feel pressure from their peers to conform to what they’re doing or what they’re saying,” he said.

Camposeco said he also feels SAMA's own self-censorship opens the space to those actively seeking different expressions of art. He said at the group's queer art show students made art that revolved around the definition of “queer” and what being queer means. 

“It’s because they feel different — they don’t feel a part of the mainstream,” he said.

“Our mission is simply to make art that we realize isn’t shown anywhere else. We want to see real art, and it’s unfortunate that we have to take it into our own hands.” 

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