Despite complaints from the public, the administration of University of Alaska – Anchorage (UAA) refused to remove from an exhibition in the university’s fine arts gallery, a deeply offensive painting of Captain America holding the severed head of President Trump.
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Amber Athey reports for Campus Reform that the painting by Assistant Professor of Painting Thomas Chung, is displayed as part of a month-long faculty art exhibition that ends today, April 20.
Thomas Chung, who claims a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Yale University and a B.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute, said he had wavered about putting the painting on display out of concern that it might make some students feel uncomfortable, but defends his painting:
“It’s an image of the actor who plays Captain America, and two eagles are sort of screaming into his ears, and he’s holding the severed head of Trump, and there’s a young Hillary Clinton clinging to his leg. I was reminded of those 80’s rock posters, where there’s a woman in tattered clothes clinging to a strong male hero’s leg.
I was really torn about putting this piece up a faculty show, because I would never talk about my own political beliefs to my students. But I realized that I feel very strongly about this, and I think even students that might be pro-Trump supporters could benefit from having a conversation with me about why I feel this way—why I painted this.”
Paul Berger, a former UAA faculty member, points out that Chung’s painting is visible from outside of the gallery entrance and is the first thing people see as they enter.
Steven Godfrey, the chair of UAA’s Fine Arts Department, said they would “protect” anyone who made a controversial piece of art: “I guess the people are upset about the work that’s being shown. If they were taking a class at the university and made art that was considered controversial, no matter what their political or religious bent is, we would do our best to protect them and protect their rights to make that kind of work in the institution, whether it would be a student or faculty.”
UAA Chancellor Tom Case defends the exhibition of Chung’s painting on the grounds of “protected expression” and the university as “a place for free exchange of ideas, diversity of thoughts and of opinions”.
For his part, UAA President Jim Johnsen also defends the art exhibit as free speech: “A vital and vibrant university, regardless of the campus, must be a place of ideas, opinion, and debate. Not all ideas, opinions, or artistic expressions stand the test of open debate or time. “he dust bin of history is filled with such ideas…I can think of no better place than a university to test ideas, especially those that are highly controversial and objectionable, through open and rigorous debate.”
But Professor Berger, who calls himself a conservative, said questions if the administration and students of UAA would approve of the painting if it depicted Obama’s severed head instead of Trump’s. Berger also questions if such an art display is appropriate for a university that is funded by taxpayers.
Quite aside from the offensiveness of Chung’s severed-head painting, it’s not even a good painting from the point of view of artistry. Any number of amateur painters can do better.
Thomas Chung can be reached at (907) 786-1738 and [email protected] (email).
Republished with permission Fellowship of the Minds