At a point in time that will likely go down as one of the funniest moments in human history, doing what this congressman did to an 18 year old’s artwork is both ill-advised and ill-tempered. With Donald Trump signing papers to run a whole country as we speak, any kind of slight transgression made against a minority group by a member of government can really twist the knife (and turn it into a sword while they’re at it).
David Pulphus, who was attending high school in Missouri at the time, won an annual art competition for his painting entitled Untitled #1. For months this painting hung undisturbed beside the finalists from other years in the tunnel that connects Longworth House Office Building with the U.S. Capitol. It stayed there until it eventually outraged certain police officials and one Republican rep., who are now demanding the artwork be taken down.
Why has one painting caused such a ruckus amongst these conservative parties? The work was inspired by events that took place in Ferguson in 2014, including references to other occurrences that have kicked up between the black community and law enforcement. The piece evidentially presents the police in an unfriendly and even brutish manner – one depicted as a hog, another as a pig, and a third seems unfit and quite portly. However, if everything offensive in this world was taken away and made illegal (though they don’t seem to stop trying), our society would simply not cope. We thrive on the differences and nuances integrated within the web of our collective existence, so why then must a medium of expression be demonised because of the points raised on its surface?
The Congressional Art Competition happens annually and is open to Missourian high school students. The competition is in it 32nd swing and Congressman William Lacy Clay has overseen the goings on for 16 years running. Although he himself does not choose the finalists, he says that he can appreciate that this is a beautiful piece of work.
“Untitled #1” is a “visually stunning acrylic painting on canvas,” said Congressman Clay at the time when David Pulphus won the award. Recently, along with these tensions surrounding the painting, Clay has been quoted stating; “I do not agree or disagree with the painting, but I will fight to protect this young man’s right to express himself.”
“I had no role in selecting the winner of this student art competition,” said Clay in a statement issued last week, “and I would never attempt to approve or disapprove artistic expression. The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom, not censorship. The young artist chose his own subject and the painting will not be removed.”
This painting, which was created by a concerned, intelligent and talented young individual, makes many issues explicit to the viewer- especially for a young American citizen experiencing these hardships. Why then is the response, “Golly this is offending me because I’m a Republican.” instead of realizing the difficulties, like police brutality, to be a problem many African Americans face.