‘Rape Culture’ Artwork Censored at High School Exhibition

Gracie Holtzclaw, Rape Culture (2014), censored by a South Carolina high school art showcase. Photo: screenshot via NBC.

High school senior Gracie Holtzclaw’s artwork will not appear in a county-wide showcase of student work in South Carolina, as the school district has ruled that the artwork she submitted, Rape Culture, is inappropriate, reports Jezebel. The artist learned that her work would be censored only two days before the exhibition was set to take place.

Despite a lack of official guidelines for artwork, the district took issue with Holtzclaw’s portrayal of a topless woman, her nipples concealed by a black bar. According to a spokesperson for the school, the decision was based on the fact that “the artwork is on display during a community event and can be viewed by small children.”

Holtzclaw told local NBC affiliate WYFF that she created the piece in response to a sexual assault she suffered. “Everyone blamed me for it and told me it was my fault and that just led the way into this art piece,” Holtzclaw said.

“I feel like high school girls and girls in their early-20s struggle with the most out of anyone, just the whole rape culture and feeding us that it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves out of bad circumstances,” she explained. The drawing is meant to illustrate that women shouldn’t have to dress modestly out of fear of attack.

While the school may have concerns about the mature themes of Holtzclow’s work, she feels that censoring her work is a mistake. The piece, she says, brings up “things that need to be talked about shouldn’t be taboo, because people struggle and we need to talk about those kind of things that people struggle with.”

For now, however, the 18-year-old’s artistic voice has been silenced. “I did lay my story out there on the line in my artwork and I got the opportunity to share it with everyone and now I don’t,” Holtzclaw said.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics