News & Politics

Artist Criticized for Emmett Till Painting

In this day and age, anything can be an outrage.

There have always been artists who like to flirt with controversy, who want to use their art to make social commentary. It’s not unusual, but what is unusual is the kind of protesting reported over at The Federalist.

This week in Boston, tempers over Schutz’s work flared again as a solo show of hers went up at the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). The painting of [Emmett] Till, her most famous work, was not included in the exhibition, but that didn’t stop progressive activists from protesting the platform given to a woman who had given such grave offense.

As the Daily Beast reported, a group of artists and activists sent a letter to ICA which said, “Please pull the show. This is not about censorship. This is about institutional accountability, as the institutions working with the artist are even now not acknowledging that this nation is not an even playing field … [“Open Casket’s”] absence from the exhibition does not excuse the institution from engaging with the harm caused by the work by holding Dana Schutz accountable.”

Dana Schutz’s Offense Is Being White

While it is easy and correct to call this censorious letter a hodgepodge of dangerous and silly hokum, we must understand why such calls to ban art are increasingly emerging. In this case, the casus belli is the fact that a white woman painted an image of Till. According to Schutz’s detractors, since a white woman’s lies about Till’s actions half a century ago led to his death, no white woman should treat the incident in this way.

Ah, the beauty of collective guilt.

Because, let’s face it, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Dana Schutz is responsible for the murder of Emmett Till because she’s part of roughly the same ethnic group as Till’s malicious accuser.

Schutz has every right to paint a picture of Till. Her right to do so isn’t superseded because of the actions of another white woman over 60 years earlier. Schutz had nothing to do with the crime. There’s no obvious connection between her and Till’s accuser other than skin tone. She has nothing to apologize for.

The activists, on the other hand, do.

When I was a kid, born and raised in the Deep South, there was still a lingering attitude that all black people were, essentially, alike. If a black person robbed you, it wasn’t considered “wrong” by some if you blamed the entire race for the robbery.

All these activists are doing is resurrecting that evil attitude.

You will never make up for the injustices of the past by revisiting those injustices on another group. All that will happen is the pendulum of intolerance will swing the other way, and the results of that could be catastrophic.

So everyone needs to knock this crap off now. Let Schutz paint what she wants to paint and show that painting wherever she can. That’s what free expression means.

And that’s not even touching on the Streisand Effect this is having regarding Schutz and her work.