A controversial art exhibit that was removed from a public gallery in Norfolk for nudity and “scary” imagery is installed and ready for showtime in Williamsburg.
Norfolk artist Alison Stinely has set up her 16-piece “Gilded Splinters” exhibit at the private Linda Matney Gallery at 5435 Richmond Road just three months after it was pulled from a Hampton Roads Transit building in Norfolk for its subject matter.
The exhibit opens Saturday.
“I’m very excited,” Stinely said. “It’s going to be a much better show in a much better space. The cancellation was a blessing in disguise.”
Stinely, a 32-year-old figure painter and assistant professor of painting at Old Dominion University, spent three years preparing a 13-piece exhibit for the Transit Gallery, an art space inside of an HRT building.
Just two weeks before the exhibit’s Jan. 26 opening — after Stinely had already transported her artwork to the building — she was informed that HRT employees were concerned by the depictions in the paintings.
Now the exhibit is back in full force in Williamsburg and includes three new paintings that Stinely finished after the display was removed from the Transit Gallery.
“It’s three more paintings than it would’ve been three months ago,” Stinely said. “And I think they really round out the collection of work.”
A last-minute removal
Stinely had worked with the Norfolk Arts Commission — a government office that serves as a liaison between the city and arts organizations — to secure the gallery space, which would feature her exhibit, “Show of Force,” from Jan. 26 until March 30.
Many of her work includes images of nude men and women painted with pink and purple flesh.
The collection depicts stories sourced not just from religious texts and the history of painting, but also parallel topics from contemporary society. Stinely combines oil painting with new technologies such as 3D printing to create her art pieces.
She said the collection is representative of myths and how they translate to her experiences navigating the world as a young woman.
Questions about the exhibit arose after some employees saw the paintings when Stinely brought her artwork to the HRT building in mid-January.
The Norfolk Arts Commission asked Stinely if she’d be open to showing some of her paintings at the Transit Gallery after the collection was edited to address the concerns of the HRT employees.
The artist declined in favor of securing a new space where the exhibit could be shown in its entirety.
Upon hearing Stinely’s artwork would no longer be shown at the Transit Gallery, Linda Matney Gallery owner and director John Lee Matney said he jumped at the chance to display her work.
A good fit
Matney anticipates a strong turnout for Stinely’s exhibit.
“It will be well attended, I think, considering the response we’ve been getting,” Matney said. “There have been some people dropping by a little bit before the exhibit, trying to find the gallery so they know where it is.”
The first day of the exhibit will be from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Matney also expects art enthusiasts from Richmond and southern Hampton Roads to visit the gallery. Richmond art lovers often visit the gallery, but Matney expects more visitors from Norfolk and Virginia Beach because the artwork initially gained attention in that area, she said.
Matney said the darker elements of Stinely’s work is similar to other artists whose work has been displayed at her gallery.
For Matney, the exhibit covers issues like modern day “relationships between the sexes and the dynamics of power in society.”
“The work is installed, and I’m really happy with the exhibit,” Matney said. “There are some large and elaborate pieces, and some small intimate ones… (Her work) is intriguing on many levels.”
Matney said there will also be a panel discussion covering Stinely’s work, its subject matter and the “censorship” of it.
In January, Stinely announced her removal from the HRT gallery on a Facebook event page that was created for the exhibit’s opening.
Several people spoke up on Facebook in support of Stinely, saying that her removal from the gallery was an act of censorship by HRT. At that time, Stinely said that while she struggles with the legal definition of censorship as it might relate to her work being removed from the gallery, she did feel censored in some way.
When asked in January if HRT viewed the removal of Stinely’s exhibit from the gallery as an act of censorship, spokesman Tom Holden said no.
Holden added that the “art in question” would be “perfectly suitable” for private galleries, but the HRT gallery “is in an area where employees are required to pass through and attend meetings.”
The panel discussion will involve Diana Blanchard Gross, curator of the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, and will relate Stinely’s work to art history.
A date for the discussion has not be set, Matney said.
Sarah Fearing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was originally published in our sister publication WYDaily