The Artist, The Censor, and The Nude: A Tale of Morality and Appropriation

The Artist, The Censor, and The Nude: A Tale of Morality and AppropriationBy Glenn Harcourt
Artwork by Pamela Joseph
Foreword by Francis M. Naumann

2017. Hardcover. 190 pages with 116 illustrations
$34.95 | 9780997003420
Designed by Jessica Fleischmann/still room

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This hybrid book examines the art and politics of “The Nude” in various cultural contexts, featuring books of canonical western art censored in Iran. Glenn Harcourtʼs rigorous, culturally-measured and art historical approach complements artist Pamela Josephʼs appropriation of these images as feminist critique. Harcourt’s discussion of Iranian and other Middle Eastern contemporary artists focuses on censorship tropes in portraiture, including works by Aydin Aghdashloo (Iran), Boushra Almutawakel (Yemen), Ana Lily Amirpour (Great Britain/USA), Gohar Dashti (Iran), Daryoush Gharahzad (Iran), Shadi Ghadirian (Iran), Bahman Ghobadi (Iranian Kurdistan), Tanya Habjouqa (Jordan), Katayoun Karami (Iran), Hoda Katebi (USA), Simin Keramati (Iran/Canada), Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Iran/ Great Britain), Shohreh Mehran (Iran), Houman Mortazavi (Iran), Manijeh Sehhi (Iran), and Newsha Tavakolian (Iran/USA).

Thoughtful and rigorous, the book provides an excellent survey of contemporary censorship.
Publisher’s Weekly

From the Introduction by Glenn Harcourt:
Of all the topographies that exist in the world, that of the human body is perhaps the most relentlessly contested—both the actual body comprising flesh and blood, and the virtual body as it is written and visualized in representation. This is true of the body both male and female, and of the body both clothed and unclothed. Issues of personal and cultural identity; of sexual and theological politics; of religious and political ideology are all articulated in terms of the body and its represented image. The body as it is lived and pictured serves both to instantiate and to adjudicate cultural norms as well as to facilitate their transgression. It motivates desire, fashion, and pornography. Its representation serves as a measure of artistic skill, of fealty to pictorial tradition, or of commitment to innovation and revolution.

The Artist, The Censor, and The Nude: A panel discussion about art and censorship across cultural contexts with author Glenn Harcourt, Eleanor Heartney, Francis M. Naumann, and artist Pamela Joseph took place at Anderson Ranch Art Center on August 10, 2017.

Click to listen to Pamela Joseph’s radio interview from August 11, 2017 on KAJX Aspen Public Radio​’s Audio Canvas.


Of all the many books that have been published about Iran, none so viscerally conveys the absurdity of the censorship that bears on the nation, or the spirit of rebellion against it as ​The Artist, The Censor, and ​The Nude. Only an artist of the keenest sensibilities, like ​Pamela ​Joseph, can make such a distant experience so present.
– Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No​: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

A provocative and engaging discussion of the alteration, erasure and suppression of art.
– Donna Kaz, author of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour

Censorship in the arts differs from culture to culture and, in most cases, only causes the audience these censors are attempting to protect to wonder exactly what is being kept from them and why, resulting in a thought process that can often be more stimulating than a view of the unaltered work. Pamela Joseph provides a biting and severely critical, while at the same time uniquely humorous commentary on the futility of censorship in the arts, no matter in what form it is practiced.
– Francis M. Naumann

It’s no secret that Glenn Harcourt is a triple threat: he’s first rate as a graceful (and rigorous) writer; an art historian, and a cosmopolitan intellectual. All his talents are on display in The Artist, The Censor, and The Nude. “Erasure” is a common enough theme in both art history and critical studies, but it becomes a particularly potent subject when discussing Iranian art and culture, and by extension, contemporary art in the so distant Islamic world.
The fun of Harcourt’s piece is his coupling of Islamic pudeur and post-modernity’s blank ironies. Pamela Joseph’s work provides an excellent jumping off place for juxtaposing Islamic modesty and post-modernity, without getting into tedious neo-Marxist mea culpas on the guilt of western orientalisms, or for that matter, of middle eastern occidentalisms. Harcourt has a keen eye (and a light sense of irony) for appreciating those conjunctions, but the real depth of Harcourt’s work is his brilliant juxtaposing of the two. And to do this all, while providing an excellent survey and analysis of the human body as a universal subject for art-making, makes this book a real tour de force.
– Donald Cosentino, UCLA Professor Emeritus, World Arts & Cultures/Dance

Pamela Joseph understands the power of image. By manipulating such icons as Magritte, Rousseau, Courbet, Dali, and Duchamp, the new adaptations are not only outrageous and humorous, but laced with absurdist dark humor.

I applaud the originality and complexity Harcourt has brought to the topic. Given Joseph’s long artistic history of a humorous and feminist point of view in her work, the technique involved in her dedicated recreations of Iranian censorship of Western art insists on the artificial and paradoxical significance of the experience between the live viewer and the two-dimensional artistic plane. Where in that engagement is the temptation, where the agency, and what, ultimately, is the censor able to censor? Is it rather the case that the power of art to arouse and provoke is being highlighted and enhanced? Additionally, as a historian of women and gender studies, I find that the book provocatively opens the question of the relationship between a Western artistic canon and Iranian Muslim viewers, how it is mediated by censors as representatives of the state and official culture, and to what extent any of these subject positions (artist, viewer, state, censor, critic) is assumed to be gendered masculine. The mere critique of the concept of Orientalism is not sufficient here. Joseph’s art and Harcourt’s analysis of her work and of (predominantly) Iranian artists remind the reader that there is no such thing as either a monolithic Western or Islamic viewpoint or identity. Rather, these are contingent, multiple and shifting, on both sides of any attempted binary divide between Western and Islamic or masculine and feminine. I quite revel in the evidence provided that a feminine—or feminist—point of view can so thoroughly disrupt our expectations and experience of art and culture that we thought we knew.
– Molly Tambor, Associate Professor of History, Long Island University

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Glenn HarcourtGlenn Harcourt is a widely published critic based in Southern California who writes about the history of art and visual culture.

Many of Harcourt’s short form essays and reviews are available at Artillery Magazine and X-TRA Contemporary Quarterly.

Artist Pamela JosephPamela Joseph is a multi-media artist based in Aspen, Colorado. Her work has been shown internationally and in numerous U.S. museums. She was also the subject of an award-winning short documentary, which focused on her long running art carnival, The Sideshow of the Absurd.

Francis M. NaumannFrancis M. Naumann is a scholar, curator, and art dealer in New York, specializing in the art of the Dada movement and the Surrealist periods.  Curated by Naumann, the exhibition Marcel Duchamp Fountain: An Homage is on view through May 26, 2017. Read Deborah Solomon’s review: “Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ Turns 100,” and this review from the cfile foundation.

Below, watch The Nude Descending A Staircase: An Homage (A Group Show), a brief introduction to Francis M. Naumann and his scholarly work.