Censorship is Never Ok: Whitney Museum and Artist Dana Schutz Face Attacks Over Key Piece in the Whitney’s 2017 Biennial.
Apparently there is a small furor brewing over at the Whitney Museum in New York City. It all centers around a painting featured in their 2017 Biennial: “Open Casket 2016” by artist Dana Schutz.
Firstly, here is the painting in question:
(“Open Casket 2016” by Dana Schutz)
It is a memorial piece, her interpretation of the horrific murder of Emmett Till, which helped spark this nation’s Civil Rights movement.
The photo of Emmett Till in his casket has become iconic, a symbol of the fight for justice that galvanized this nation, a fight that is still going on. Till’s mother, having lost her only son in a most horrific manner, insisted on an open casket saying, “Let the people see what I have seen.” He was murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman. The woman in question admitted that her accusations were false just this year.
I still remember my own response when, early in my twenties I first saw the iconic photograph of Mr. Till in his coffin (it is extremely graphic and I am not posting it here, but this link will take readers directly to the photograph). It was like a punch in the gut. It leveled me. It apparently left quite an impression on Dana Schutz too, and her painting shows that the death of Emmett Till still has the power to affect us today. When I saw that she titled it ‘Open Casket 2016’ I was even more moved, because it’s a clear statement that what happened to Till is still happening. It’s an acknowledge of the pain of ever mother who has ever lost her child to racism and violence. The artist herself said that she responded viscerally as a mother to Emmett Till’s death.
Art critic Hannah Black has a problem with that and has started a campaign not only to have the painting removed, but to see it destroyed. Not only has she started a petition to that effect (recently amended to show only the names of black signatories) but she is also encouraging her non-black supporters to vandalize the painting having recently updated her post to say the following, “Non-Black people super very welcome to help get painting destroyed tho [sic] in other ways.”
She doesn’t like this piece and she is calling for it to be destroyed. She is advocating for others to try to destroy it. She is calling for the willful silencing of an artist and the destruction of that person’s art. She is willfully trying to shut another artist down.
Hannah Black and those signatories are saying this painting is exploitative because the artist isn’t black. From the day of the opening last week, there have been protestors lined up in front of Ms. Schutz’s painting purposely blocking it from being viewed by those attending the exhibit. Its sole offense? The artist isn’t black. I’m not a fucking basket of fruit but that doesn’t stop me from painting the occasional still life. Art is that thing which crosses all boundaries after all. One does not need to be a particular anything in order to paint it.
Apparently “Open Casket 2016” is racist and exploitative though because the artist isn’t herself black. That is the objection, not the nature of the art itself. Seriously, if you would find this piece acceptable if the artist were black, then you’re not worried about exploitation, you’re just a racist. You, Ms. Black, are the worst kind of racist and I sincerely hope that you are arrested for attempting to promote vandalism and destruction of Museum property. You are a disgusting human being.
I also hope the Whitney doesn’t cave here and I hope to Gods they have security on this painting, which represents one of the most horrific events in the American Civil Rights movement. We should remember this event. We should be struck and moved and rendered by art. What we shouldn’t do is censor it. Ever but most especially when it upsets us.
We’ve seen this play out before. How many cultural icons do these deluded people need to destroy before we learn our lesson? Can anyone say Inquisition, Cultural Revolution, Soviet Russia? The moment you begin advocating for the destruction of artistic freedom, you lose. NO SUBJECT SHOULD BE OFF LIMITS TO AN ARTIST. I hope this makes Dana Schutz’s career.
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