For Saturday’s ArtWalk, galleries in downtown Lafayette are exhibiting pieces showcasing nudes, in solidarity with a local artist recently asked to take down nude self-portraits in her former gallery, Gallerie Touchet, in Gordon Square.
Nicole Touchet had displayed three large nude self-portraits in her gallery for last month’s ArtWalk, and within a week and a half, she was asked by the building’s management company, Property One Inc., to take down the paintings, she said.
After her story was publicized last week by The Independent, the art community rallied behind the 26-year-old, with eight galleries exhibiting nude art or body painting, including the Kelli Kaufman Studio and Gallery.
“I love that Nicole has turned this unfortunate situation into a positive, bringing the art community together, along with the business sector, in support of uncensored art,” said Kelli Kaufman, who has operated Kelli Kaufman Studio and Gallery on Congress Street for the past three years.
Other studios include Theatre 810, Carpe Diem, The Vertical Barre and Gallery 333, where Touchet’s paintings will be displayed.
“If you can sit here and look at this painting, this is beautiful,” Touchet said Friday afternoon as she stood next to one of her paintings. “This is what a woman looks like. Don’t run away from it. Don’t feel ashamed to look at it. There’s nothing wrong with it, and if we can teach the youth to be supportive of that, then I think we can start opening people’s minds and raising kids to understand nudity in a new light and not make it so taboo.”
The trio of abstract nude paintings were created her senior year at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she graduated in May 2013 with a bachelor’s in fine arts. Last month was the first time she displayed the works.
So when a representative from Property One Inc. asked her to remove the paintings, she found a more creative solution and covered the breasts in the paintings with white cut-out tops.
Kaufman said she does not think the company’s response is indicative of the views of the larger Lafayette community.
“We don’t get named the happiest place to live in America by being closed-minded,” Kaufman said. “I think this is an isolated situation.”
As for Touchet, she’s said she’s looking to move to New Orleans but also has plans to collaborate with other artists in Lafayette before the summer. For the upcoming Festival International de Louisiane, Touchet said, she’s teaming up with Angela Rene Roberts on a live body art display.
“I’m just a young artist doing my thing here,” Touchet said.
“She really elevated the ArtWalk experience for patrons, featuring her beautiful paintings and those of emerging artists along with live music in her space,” Kaufman said. “She will be missed and is always welcome back to Lafayette if she ever returns.”