Thursday, June 19, 2008

Figleaf Morality




The Henson debate of the last few weeks reminds me of the censorship of the work by Australia's Rosaleen Norton, the "Witch of Kings Cross" intended to be exhibited at the University of Melbourne in 1949. Two days after it opened police descended on the exhibition, seizing four of the pictures. Charges would be laid under the Police Offences Act of 1928 that these particular works were obscene. Seems that there was a danger that this sort of work "could deprave and corrupt the morals of those that saw them"!!! Quelle Horreur!!! More details can be found in the books on Rosaleen Norton by Nevill Drury, such as 'Pan's Daughter' and an extended version of the latter published as 'The Witch of King's Cross'. Drury, who while having written non-academic books on the subject, has also I hear, just completed his PhD dissertation on Norton. Surely this will manifest in another book at some future date? Now what is interesting about Rosaleen Norton and censorship is that her work is quite similar to another Australian artist who favoured Pagan themes: Norman Lindsay. Yet, he never incurred a police raid as far as I know. Possibly Norton being an out and out 'Witch' while Lindsay was more of a 'Pagan' made a difference, in addition to Norton appearing as somewhat of a vagrant, while Lindsay was a powerful well-connected Australian artist and author. Norton's representation of full frontal penises was also surely part of the 'offensiveness' that the Melbourne police couldn't abide. Lindsay was a bit more circumspect with the phallus depictions, although here's one in this pic here. The black and white images are Norton's and are titled 'Binah' and 'The Adversary', and the Lindsay one is titled 'Self Portrait'.

3 comments:

david santos said...

Excellent post, Caroline, excellent!
Happy day

Labrys said...

Thank you for bringing Norton to my attention. I particularly like the female figure with Saturn for a head...sitting on that Mobius strip of eternity, with Saturn on the brain, so to speak. Pretty much sums up my life for now....

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Thank you so much for posting Norton's wonderful pictures, from which one can see instantly that she was a real artist and a true student of both magick and the psyche. (Surely The Adversary wears her own face?)