While we’re on the topic of “hate speech”…how about “hate paintings”? At public universities? Painted by faculty members?
An art gallery at the University of Alaska-Anchorage this month displayed the painting above, depicting actor Chris Evans as Captain America and holding the severed head of President Trump while Hillary Clinton grasps Cap’s legs like she is a slave girl and he is Conan the Barabarian. The artist is UAA Painting Professor Thomas Chung, who created the masterpiece as part of a faculty art program. Naturally it was accepted, just as it would have been if he had painted Thor holding up President Obama’s severed head. Of course it would have been accepted. After all, art is art. Academic freedom. Right?
Chung explains the artwork as something he chose to paint because he was upset at the results of the 2016 election. “I spent days just weeping,” he has said. Campus Reform quotes him explaining his decision:
“I was really torn about putting this piece up at 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.”
(By the way, the actual painting shows Evans/Captain America’s sex organs. None of the versions on the web do, though. Sorry!)
Random ethics observations, since I fear that painting may have caused some brain damage and I can’t seem to organize a coherent paragraph:
1. Wow, that’s some painting professor you have there, University of Alaska! I know a teacher doesn’t have to be personally adept at what he teaches, but if that’s this professor’s idea of a painting of sufficient quality to be exhibited, there is a prima facie case for incompetence. Why should any student take seriously the pearls of wisdom about art from a professor who proudly displays an embarrassing piece of crap like this?
2. Double standard alert! Does anyone seriously believe that the equivalent painting using Obama’s head would be displayed at a university? Is there any justification for the double standard? No: both are Presidents of the United States, and both paintings would be an expression of violence, disrespect and hate toward the President.
3. Displaying a political painting like this would be entirely defensible in a college campus gallery—as long as the double standard noted in #2 was not at play. This is First Amendment protected speech and expression, no matter what Howard Dean says. Wait—no, Dean wouldn’t think this painting was hate speech. Showing a beheaded Republican President isn’t hateful in Howard’s world. It’s optimism.
Sorry. I was confused.
4. A faculty member, however, is not just another artist. A faculty member should be wary of engaging in extreme speech designed to make one set of students feel estranged from the campus community. Advocating the murder of the President is not responsible speech from a professor, and the university happily displaying it as if it was a painting of kittens sends a troubling message to students–gasp!—who think that citizens owe duly elected POTUS’s some modicum of respect.
5. UAA Chancellor Tom Case sent an e-mail to the community arguing that the painting has “sparked spirited discussions on the appropriateness of displaying a piece of art such as this” but that it is protected expression. Sure it is, but this ducks the issue of whether in this place, a college campus, it is responsible expression when endorsed by a professor and the school. Pieces of art showing slavery on other campuses have been taken down for turning the campuses into hostile environments. Artwork showing bare-breasted women have been removed for making co-eds feel uncomfortable. Harvard just removed a reference to “Pilgrims” from its anthem “Fair Harvard” on the grounds that the lyrics needed to be more ‘inclusive.” Case wrote:
“We understand that some may not support this exhibit, but universities–including UAA–are a place for free exchange of ideas, diversity of thoughts and of opinions, and ideally, a place for conversation to occur around our differences and similarities.”
Okay, but then I want assurances that political speech that makes the majority of students and faculty feel uncomfortable (aka “unsafe”) will be similarly regarded. I want assurances that a professor who paints Donald Trump holding Hillary Clinton’s head in one hand and Obama’s head in the other will also be hung in a place of prominence so students can engage in enlightened debate, and that the professor won’t be ostracized and attacked by the rest of the faculty.
6. This doesn’t have to be difficult. The institution itself should make every effort to have a neutral environment free from ideological indoctrination and real or de facto discrimination for or against any groups. It should also avoid caving to hyper-sensitivity—freaking out over a reference to Pilgrims in a 181-year old song is hypersensitivity—but also be sensitive to symbols and expressions that legitimately undermine a student’s experience. If I were a black student, I wouldn’t want to walk by artwork depicting slaves being auctioned or toiling in the fields every day. At the same time, a university shouldn’t discourage expressions of opinions that are controversial or unpopular.
7. Taking all of this into consideration, the ethics verdicts about the painting are:
- It’s an embarrassing work that calls into question the painter’s competence, taste and sanity. Writes Debra Heine,
“Honestly, if I were a college kid again, I don’t know if I’d want to start a “conversation” with someone who had just painted a picture of my president’s decapitation. I’d be desperately trying to transfer out of the sick freak’s class.”
- The fact that the gallery chose to highlight the painting suggests that it is either trying to humiliate the painter, or that it likes and a endorses the underlying political message. The former motive is cruel, and the latter is inappropriate for the university.
- Displaying the painting is unethical if it embodies a double standard regarding political speech, ethically tolerable if it does not.
Anyone who thinks the paint’s display does not embody a double standard should never buy a used car alone.
8. Finally, is the Trump-hate really sufficient to make students and faculty ignore the outrageously sexist portrayal of Hillary Clinton in Chung’s painting? Really? This a popular comic book trope ( that is. it is designed to appeal to adolescent boys) that highlights male dominance and female submissiveness, as in these examples…
This is called a “Leg Cling”:
“A Film Poster Trope that has ties to old pulp comics or adventure book covers. It depicts a muscle-bound man in a dominant pose, with an attractive woman literally clinging to one of his legs. After all, Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty. The man is always a Hunk (handsome and manly), and very often is depicted shirtless (or with his shirt torn open), to reinforce how tough he is, with a cocky expression on his face and a Phallic Weapon on one hand, even maybe stabbing the sky. Very often he’s Atop a Mountain of Corpses, or viewed from a low angle atop a throne to make him look even more intimidating than he already is. Meanwhile, the woman is almost always half-naked in a sexualized manner, with a helpless expression and posture that reinforce her submissiveness. The contrast between the male and female characters alludes to the notion that men are defined by their actions and women by their passiveness. Sometimes it’s more than just one woman at the man’s feet, invoking A Lady on Each Arm trope. Given gender double standards about dominance and submissiveness, it is almost always (if not all of the time) a man who’s standing tall, and a woman at his feet.”
And of course, the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” poster…
37 thoughts on ““Hey, Look! Professor Chung Has A Painting In The Exhib—-WHAT THE HELL?????””
There was massive outcry in Wisconsin about a Halloween costume created by a Bernie Sanders supporter at a Wisconsin football game depicting Obama and Hillary at the business end of a noose with Trump saying Hillary you’re fired.
I’d certainly like to hear the same lefties that cried that the Halloween costume was offensive and was calling for the hanging of Obama to cry out at this “art” saying it too is offensive and it is calling for the beheading of Trump.
I would pay good money to know every word this Professor Thomas Chung said about this Halloween costume…
Plus, I’d like to know what the administration at University of Alaska-Anchorage said about the Halloween costume too; pro or con, I’d like to know.
It is offensive. I doubt it is literally calling for the beheading of Trump, but then, I think the same of the Obama/Hillary costume. Still, even metaphorical calls to violence are bad.
Thank for reminding me why I like low brow art. As far as Professor Chung’s “art”, It belongs in the dumpster or in some San Francisco museum.
Was that an oil on velvet painting or on the side of a van?
The painting is devoid of artistic merit; it is nothing but propaganda, and should have been rejected on that basis.
The art is crap, but I actually laughed out loud at the leg-clinging Hillary. Because she is in a pants suit — not a metal bikini. And it’s ironic because she Hillary is not beautiful and lacks personality, so the idea of her leg-clinging anyone is pretty hysterical.
I guess I haven’t been exposed to enough teen aged boy fantasy pieces. I thought the references were to Ricard Strauss’s (and Oscar Wilde’s) “Salome” (Okay, okay, I know Jack hates opera.), which I thought was kind of funny/ironic because of course Salome goes insane after she has John The Baptist’s head severed and delivered on a plate. She also has an absolute crush on John The B. It’s the main reason she has him killed: he rebuffs her. I doubt this is the subtext this goofball was looking for the viewer to read.
The pants suit reference is a good catch, Sparty. But I think the joke is on the artist rather than anyone else. I doubt HRC ever did a dance involving any veils, never mind seven. It’s also funny that’s a thirty or forty years ago HRC face he uses. Would have been better to have HRC in her current iteration where she looks like Marie, Ray Romano’s mother, in “Everyone Loves Raymond.”
Regarding the qulity of the painting technique, frankly, I suspect it’s well within the limits of some school of current painting thinking. I just don’t think saying it looks like incompetent painting and the guy shouldn’t be teaching painting is is accurate.
On further inspection, I think the pants suit is more cotton PJs. Actually, she looks a little like a Viet Cong. Pretty creepy the blood on her leg. Maybe cotton pajamas are HRC’s equivalent of the outfits the girls Bill wished he was married to are wearing in all the pictures Jack provided.
And come to think of it, HRC’s prudishness (or lack of interest in guys) notwithstanding, I’d say she HAS spent her entire life since Yale Law School clinging to Bill’s leg.
That’s crap. She’s the most independent First Lady in history.
Oooh, tough one. I’m not sure what “independent” means in this context, or if the most independent First Lady still isn’t independent.. I could make a strong argument that Mamie Eisenhower was the most independent, because she virtually refused to play Firts Lady, and chose to stay out of the news and the limelight. Eleanor Roosevelt was ab activist before marrying FDR, resented the burdens of mattiagee, and eventualy continued her activism whether he approved or not.
Hillary would have won the award (and the Senate) if she had the guts to divorce Bill for humiliating her. As it was, no FL exploited the role and the connection to a popular politician for votes, though she was the first to have the opportunity. Would someone with HRC’s chilly public style, annoying speaking styles and lack of charisma ever forged a career in politics without being dependent on a more popular husband? You know the answer. All in all, I think it’s weird to describe her as independent.
My bet for the title would be Michelle. We shall see.
Well, I definitely agree with the women you’ve put in the top 4, not just the order. But that’s okay, we’re close enough that I don’t feel the need to argue.
Why my impulse was to put Hillary first though is that she made it very clear from the beginning that she wanted to impact policy, not play a traditional First Wife role. And she faced tremendous ridicule for that. She also faced ridicule for not divorcing her husband, including from me.
I would probably put Eleanor in the No. 2 slot, but women were doing extraordinary things in WWII generally, and she stands out merely due to her position.
“Why my impulse was to put Hillary first though is that she made it very clear from the beginning that she wanted to impact policy, not play a traditional First Wife role.”
Uhhh, and this is why we objected at the time. The USA elected Bill, not Hillary, and she acted like she was vested with the authority of the President, on her own. Imagine if Melania Trump acted this way, how the left would howl (and rightly so.) Hillary was NOT elected, and was not electable. She would never have touched the levers of power if not for Bill.
I think the second (and third) go around showed that sentiment was as true later as it was then.
So, are you just as annoyed at Ivanka and her hubby right now in the White House?
Spartan said, “So, are you just as annoyed at Ivanka and her hubby right now in the White House?”
That’s a bit of a deflection Spartan but personally that obvious nepotism pisses me off a great deal.
Well… not AS annoyed, to be truthful, but it does not sit well. Is Ivanka perceived to be the same as the way Hillary situated herself? Is she that intrusive?
Granted, less than 100 days in Hillary had not gotten going yet, either. (Travelgate was actually in May, just after that deadline)
Hah! That’s hilarious.
(That HRC is the most independent first lady in history.) Authentic Frontier Gibberish.
Spartan wrote, “That’s crap. She’s [HRC’s] the most independent First Lady in history.”
That depends on your personal definition of independent.
Just curious; on a scale of zero to ten where zero is completely dependent and ten is 100% independent; here do you rate Hillary Clinton and then where you you rate yourself in comparison to Hillary? Be honest. 🙂
I think the whole thing is supposed to be an over-the-top parody, perhaps a nod to the artist’s own over-the-top reaction to the election. It’s the leg-cling Hillary in the white pantsuit, with blood coming out her “whatever”, the full frontal Chris Evans, the two fighting eagles in the background almost-but-not-quite forming angel wings behind Evans, “America” with its feet on top of “everything”, and the dead buffalo proclaiming “Make America White Again”, etc. in an neo-expressionist style that mocks both the sexist cover tropes of the 70s pulp comics and classical art.
I do not think it is devoid of artistic merit, however, for anyone who only likes pictures of landscapes and fruit, it might be hard to take.
So it’s either this or pictures of fruit. Wow, art sucks.
It did occur to me that the painting was intended to be satire: I thought it was funny. Chung is a cool customer if it is, because his published comments don’t let on, and nobody seem to be taking it as satire of hysterical leftist propaganda. Instead of real hysterical leftist propaganda.
I think that the artist should redo the piece with Hillary portrayed as she looks today not 40 years ago. How about Barbara Bush clinging to the other leg?
It would have been even funnier if it had been Hillary circa 2017 rather than 1990.
“I spent days just weeping,” he has said.
Aaaaaaannnnd, there’s the obvious sign of mental issues. Healthy people do not do that.
Professor Thomas Chung is what’s commonly referred to as a Coddled Political Wimp suffering from Traumatic Political Stress Disorder (TPSD).
Special Snowflake Art is merited
The should be “Award”
I could go on and on about the lack of profundity, sophistication, and emotional maturity of the piece, but I’m still hung up on interpreting the bizarre symbolism. It’s heavy-handed, yet confusing. I understand that artistic composition from some older eras is supposed to have symbols crammed into it, but putting words on your painting has got to be cheating, right?
And… what exactly is the inscription on the pedestal Evans is standing on supposed to mean? “Everything”? He’s… standing on everything? I may be taking this a bit literally, but the word “everything” there seems completely pointless and meaningless.
Notwithstanding the buffalo running off a cliff in the background (what does THAT mean?) the dead animal look like an ox to me, leading me to wonder whose ox the so called artist was showing as ‘gored.’
I wish Milo or Anne Coulter were appearing on this campus later this month. Would be interesting to see the president’s response to that open exchange of ideas.
this piece is clear indoctrination. if you look closely, the bull has written on it, “Make America White Again.” a sculpture or painting should not require words, unless one considers it a cartoon. it is very clear the author had a political motive to this, and included the phrases to confirm it.
Ceci n’est pas une pipe? https://www.wikiart.org/en/rene-magritte/the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948
I accidentally read the title as Professor “Chub” the first time I read this post.
It made it WAY funnier.