Is P.C. Culture A Potential Threat To Artists’ Freedom Of Expression?

I live in a small town in New Hampshire. Recently I was made aware of a controversy brewing over a mural in our local post office.
Photo from UnionLeader.com

 The paintings are designed to look as though they are pages from a book plastered up above the counter area. The historic images were painted in 1959 by artist, Bernard Chapman. The artwork had been commissioned by The Women’s Club of Durham.

The image seen here above titled; “Cruel Adversity” is at the heart of the debate. Some people have sharply criticized the depiction of a Native American on a rise overlooking a Garrison house that was among 15 other buildings burned in a raid. The raid lead by a French soldier was carried out by somewhere around 250 native people occurred on July 18, 1694. Over 100 settlers were either killed during the raid or were taken prisoner. In the town’s historical record this became known as the, “Oyster River Massacre.”

Some have claimed that the image, “Cruel Adversity” is “racist” and should be removed. Some want the wording changed. They who argue it’s racist say the image only relays the feeling that the settlers were victims therefore only showing one side. However, that’s one possible interpretation, there are so many ways people might consider that paining.

For me as an artist, I can visualize many way to interpret the scene. One could look and think that the settlers were terribly victimized. One could also look and ponder the plight of that man depicted and wonder what must he have suffered so horribly to bring him to that point. But art is supposed to be subjective isn’t it? It’s all about what the viewer sees and brings to the image. Does it mean if you don’t like what a work of art says to you that you should force it to be hidden or changed? Ultimately what these people really want is to censor or control art they find upsetting. They don’t want to offend anyone or feel offended themselves.  (to be clear obscene, debasement of people or victimization of children or pornography is not included in what I believe is protected)

What makes art so amazing is how it begins as an image in our minds and is shared through a visual representation as best we can replicate it. It is window into a conscious and I find that fascinating.

So for me what it really boils down to this; it’s our speech, it’s our right, it’s protected. We must never let the P.C. police take the freedom of our very thoughts we impart in our work from us because it makes someone uncomfortable.

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