Artist not bothered by backlash after 'Chunkism' exhibit opens downtown at Living Arts of Tulsa

Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 19:25:19-05

TULSA -- Living Arts of Tulsa opened a new exhibit of oil paintings four days ago, and the images painted by Adam Carnes are already getting plenty of complaints.

"They feel that my work is sexist and racist and objectifying women," Carnes said. "We've had people calling here at the gallery saying that this exhibition is inappropriate, and it's shaming people."

The criticism, however, does not bother him much. In fact, he encourages it. He said that was his intent when he created the series of paintings called "Chunkism," which depict headless, nude people with large, fleshy figures.

"I definitely want people to see beauty in something unexpected," he said. "My goal is to seduce the viewer into sitting with something that they normally wouldn't look at."

Carnes set up the exhibition so that he can collect feedback from the people who came to look at his artwork. He has an iPhone and an iPad set up among the paintings so that visitors can record their thoughts.

"Eventually I'll put up the commentary on the Internet, and you can decide for yourself what it means," he said. "I'm looking to put their reactions on a pedestal, so we can kind of assess what it means to be human (and) to assess humanity."

People are also sharing their thoughts about "Chunkism" on social media. A local artist even posted a criticism of one of his most provocative paintings on Instagram, questioning if the work may be racist and objectifying for portraying only white women's bodies without heads.

"I don't feel like I need to defend myself," Carnes said. "That's not my responsibility as an artist. People have to figure that out for themselves."

The exhibition will remain in Tulsa until February 23, then Carnes plans to take his artwork to another city and see what kinds of reactions it will elicit there.

"I want reactions across the board," he said. "It can be negative (or) positive. You can hate it. You can bash it. That's fine. I don't want to discourage anybody from giving their unadulterated responses. I want an honest reaction."

To learn more about "Chunkism," visit this link.

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