U Alaska art exhibition displays Trump’s severed head
- The University of Alaska Anchorage is displaying a professor’s painting that depicts Captain America holding the severed head of President Donald Trump.
- Professor Thomas Chung said he was initially hesitant to submit the painting for a faculty art show out of concern that it would make some students feel uncomfortable, but ultimately decided to display it in hopes of starting a conversation.
- A former UAA faculty member raised strong objections to the painting on social media, but school officials say they plan to allow it to remain on display until the end of the art show on Thursday.
The University of Alaska Anchorage is displaying a professor’s painting that depicts Captain America holding the severed head of President Donald Trump.
The work, created by Assistant Professor of Painting Thomas Chung, is being presented as part of a month-long faculty art exhibition in the university’s fine arts gallery, reports KTUU.
"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,” Chung said to describe his painting. “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."
A Facebook post by Paul Berger, a former UAA faculty member, shows that the painting is visible from outside of the gallery entrance and will be the first thing people see as they enter.
“I'm not sure how I want to respond to this,” Berger wrote. “First thing that comes to mind is freedom of expression, fair enough (although, I might wager the severed head of our former president might illicit [sic] a different response from the administration of UAA and their student body). The second is public funding of our university system.”
The painting has apparently resulted in a number of complaints to the university and a debate on the appropriateness of the painting.
"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," Chung asserted, saying he wavered about putting the painting on display out of concern that it might make some students feel uncomfortable. "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."
Berger, who calls himself a conservative, said the piece represents a double standard in how people can talk about President Trump versus former President Obama.
“Had the roles been reversed, and it was Obama's head hanging there, I think the outrage would be fantastic," Berger said. "As a free speech advocate, everyone has a right to express their opinion the way they want to express them. But as a parent and a citizen, there's a discussion. In a university setting, what's appropriate?"
So far, the university appears to be taking Chung’s side in this debate, allowing the painting to remain on display until the end of the exhibit on April 20.
Steven Godfrey, the chair of the Fine Arts Department, said that they would “protect” anyone who made a controversial piece of art.
"I guess the people are upset about the work that's being shown,” Godfrey said. “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."
Campus Reform reached out to UAA for comment but did not receive a response by press time.
The UAA Chancellor and President doubled down on the school's decision to keep the painting in the Kimura Gallery in two emails to the university community.
Chancellor Tom Case said that the artwork has "sparked spirited discussions on the appropriateness of displaying a piece of art such as this" but is protected expression nonetheless.
"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," Case wrote.
University President Jim Johnsen reiterated the school's commitment to free speech, writing, "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 continued. "The 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."
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