Right and wrong writing and art
My last post had some very interesting comments made about it. I also had follow-up by email and I was sent this NBC News article from the USA which contains a quote that seemed very important for me personally. Thank you to those who sent and forwarded this article. Here’s the quote but the whole article is worth reading. I thought that the most valuable contribution to this debate was made by Lisa Whittington and the least useful was made by the person blocking the painting instead of talking to the artist.
“Art professor Dr. Lisa Whittington, a Black artist who has created two paintings of Emmett Till, says she doesn’t have an issue with a white artist taking on the difficult subject matter, but questions Schutz’s perspective in making the painting.”
“I would ask her, why she did not paint the Emmett Till Story from a white woman’s point of view? Is there nothing that as a white woman that she would want to say? Especially in recently knowing that the woman who accused Emmett Till has admitted that she lied. Where is the artwork that represents her lies?” Whittington said. “The two men who lynched Emmett? Where is the artwork about them? Does she have nothing to say there?”
Whittington continued, “As artists—responsible artists—we are to speak and to document history. We are to tell about life from our point of view from where we stand.”
This story made me once again question myself in relation to my own work. Must a white artist limit themselves to their own culture or their guilt and wrongdoing in relation to other cultures? Who says that this must be so? History? Culture? Society? Can I explore injustice and oppression as I assume Dana Schutz intended to do, only if I have the identical experience? This post has become so interesting, complicated and long so I have decided to split it into two and carry on with the ideas it raises next week as well. I hope that you’ll want to read it and to comment on it. Next week I’ll start with the Brett Bailey Exhibit B. which you can see below. I did want to ask readers what they thought of Dr Whittington’s suggestion to Dana Schutz. Should Schutz respond as a person or as a white-skinned person? Does she have to identify as a perpetrator? Does she have to ask for forgiveness for herself or the whites who killed Emmett Till? How do Germans face up to the Holocaust or South Africans to apartheid? These are some of the questions I want the characters in my next book Hannah’s Housekeeping to face. I don’t know the answers.
Slavery and Slavers, Black and White and Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B
I posted several years ago in response to a similar event that took place in London in September 2014 when a South African artist, Brett Bailey, exhibited his installation entitled Exhibit B.
I will also refer to the art made by Kaolin Thompson which caused enormous controversy and shows how easily the good intentions of inexperienced youth can be a mistake and backfire as Dana Schutz’s did.