To the Editor: The story in Friday’s Union Leader about the New Hampshire Institute of Art students refusing to exhibit their works unless a “racist” painting was withdrawn gives me great concern for the future of art.
The story began with the description of a painting of an African-American woman holding a banana to her ear as if it were a phone. I laughed at that image, thinking of the old joke: “Do you know you have a banana in your ear?” “I’m sorry I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.”
Reading further, I was shocked to learn the students’ objection to this painting. They equated a black person holding a piece of fruit with monkeys. That racist thought was in their minds, most likely not in the artist’s. Even if it were, shouldn’t people be entitled to judge for themselves?
I have attended many student exhibitions at NHIA, exhibitions that have included paintings of blood, gore and even rape. If one finds the art offensive or disturbing — which in many cases, I did — I simply moved on.
It is sad that the public won’t see this painting. The president of NHIA made the wrong decision by removing the painting. Rather, those students who refused to display their art unless the “offensive” painting was removed should have been told they were free to make that choice.
With NHIA students as the arbiters of what is acceptable to be viewed, the future of art is pallid.
Gilhaven Road, Manchester