"I'm so glad they chose not to exhibit it. It has nothing to do with anything, really."
Ann Wilbanks, Jennifer's Step-Mother
"We're not looking for political statements and we don't want to make any kind of political statements with any art at the Quinlan."
Tina Carlson-Griffeth, vice president of the Quinlan board of trustees
The story takes too long to get to the point. In fact, I never did get to your point before I quit reading.
Yeah, it sure was vitally important to point out that the crazy woman's fabrication was racist. I hope she's learned her lesson, and the next time she flees from a wedding she'll invent that she was kidnapped by two white people, instead of a hispanic guy and a white woman. Whew, thank you, professor!
...We did not feel it was "vitally important to point out that the crazy woman's fabrication was racist." We did feel it important to comment on her motivations for the invention of the privileged-class-boogyman-of-the-month, in this case an interracial couple, Hispanic and White. This phenomenon is not an isolated event. If you are interested, try a Google search on Robert Harris, Jesse Anderson, Miriam Kashani, Charles Stuart, Emmet Till, Susan Smith, or Rosewood, Florida. For further information you might want to read http://www.law.indiana.edu/ilj/v71/no3/russell.html to see how this subtle racism goes largely ignored in our society, yet maintains much power. This, we thought, was worth the discussion. BF & RLou
To Richard A Lou and Bill Fisher, in response to their diatribe on the Quinlan Art Institute: What in the world are you talking about and what did the denial of the piece called "Missing Stereotypes" have to do with racism? Why in the world are you so interested in making your statement on racism in Gainesville and using The Times as your voice?
There are many towns in the Southeast that would benefit by your opinion using that particular piece as your sounding board. It surely couldn't be your intention to use Gainesville as an opportunity to promote yourselves using it to build on your agenda whatever that may be.
I do not know Jennifer Wilbanks and know only two others who are friends of a friend of hers, but it never occurred to me or my friends that she was making or intended to make a racist statement. It was not wise or smart, but not racist. I guess racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. This town may just be a little tired of hearing from opportunists looking for their 15 minutes of fame.
Gainesville moved beyond the hidden agenda of racism long ago. Latinos are making a significant contribution to this community and are much appreciated. Is it your intention to ignite racial tension in Gainesville or merely to promote yourself and your artistic efforts? What a pity.
As I understand it, you are not a member of this private institution or a taxpaying citizen of this area. Are you really speaking in favor of Stalinist USSR, the Peoples Republic of China and Nazi Germany and their arts programs?
(From the Gainesville Times, 10/08/05)
Dear Mr. Fisher and Mr. Lou
A very memorable line from Jurassic Park comes to mind as I read about your plight: the character Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) says to John Hammond (the curator of Jurassic Park), "You were so busy trying to see if you could do it that you never stopped to consider if you SHOULD".
As a professional artist for 15 years, I am sympathetic to issues artists face. However, there is bad art, stupid art, worthless art, and tasteless art. Often art that has no redeeming value whatsoever is protected by the banner, "a tradition of inclusiveness, of examination, of dialog" You do our cause no good when instead of defending truly noble and meaningful art, you make headlines defending crap. Your crusade is pathetic and embarrasses me. Now I have to once again defend my profession to my colleagues because of "artists" like you. Had you half the sense of a horse, it would have been obvious to you that the relevant question was not "can we display this art", but "SHOULD we display this art?" That is a question that so many artists seem incapable of asking. I hope that you are one who can.
Dear Mr. _______,
Please forgive my brevity here as I collect my thoughts for the more in-depth response your comments deserve. If by "bad art" you mean lowbrow, silly, comical, kitsch, or "rascuachismo," I would agree that "Missing Stereotypes" is bad, in the spirit of Howard Finster, Tom Friedman and Felix Gonzales-Torres. And though I fully support your and everyone's right to an opinion on the artistic merit of any given piece, the issue here has nothing to do with aesthetics. I fully expected the piece to drift into oblivion following the exhibition, as most "good" or "bad" art will. If the Quinlan had rejected the work using aesthetics as a curatorial concern, we obviously would have disagreed with their narrow interpretation of "Art," but would have deferred to their curatorial criteria. This was not the case. The installation was censored by the Board of Directors, after being accepted by the exhibition organizers because it may be offensive to the Wilbanks family. This is completely unacceptable as an act of blatant censorship and cronyism committed by an organization that publicly states its mission to be one of artistic diversity and education. This is our opinion, an opinion shared by the NCAC and the ACLU of Georgia in their support of this cause.
I expect no one to defend this work as "Good Art," but I would hope anyone who considers themselves to be an artist would see the need to defend fellow artists against the actions of the Quinlan, arrogant actions which trample on the rights of all of us, artists (painters, printmakers, installation artists, performance artists, illustrators, etc) and non-artists alike.
I would encourage you to realize that the issues raised by "Missing Stereotypes" are "noble and meaningful" to many. This is not my opinion but a fact proven by the outpouring of support (from Hispanics and others) we have received and the positive response the work has garnered at another venue and from website visitors. The fact that you decree the work (and therefore the issues raised) to be crap (your word), is valid as one opinion on the definition of Art as shared by you and your friends, but irrelevant. "Art" encompasses everyone from Kinkade to Leonardo to Kahlo to Bob Ross. As a "professional artist," you no doubt learned somewhere along the way that Matisse, Renoir, Van Gogh, and countless others who are now firmly enshrined in the pantheon of Great Artists were maligned with the same arguments and narrow, presumptive, self-righteous proclamations on the definition of art that you now make. I am not comparing our work to any of the artists above, but I feel we should have learned something from history by now. I consider someone like Thomas Kinkade, my King of Krap, to be a purveyor of worthless shlock. You may agree or disagree, but so what? Some people can't get enough of his "art," but so what? "Should" he make a different kind of work? What "should" I care, and who am I to say? To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, I may disagree with everything you stand for, everything you have to say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.
I'd also add that the vitriol in your judgmental tone, an attitude that echoes the logic of the organizers of the 1937 Entartete Kunst, would ironically validate the need for this precise work of (what we call) art.
In addition to Jurassic Park, I'd suggest you add "Damned in the USA," Paul Yule Dir., to your video library.
This wasn't the brief response I intended, but thank you for your opinions and the chance to reply.
P.S. I hope you have read the information at http://billfisher.dreamhost.com/missing.html and will reconsider the value in this struggle against racism and censorship, whether it be of good art or bad.
I don't impune your passion. Would that we all felt so passionate about something. But you of course disregarded the premise of my note which was "should", referring to the larger question of discretion and propriety that many artists seem to have an astonishing lack of, particularly those who exhibit in galleries.
I regret that you are so anxious to imply any apathy to a noble cause just because I take issue with art created to support it, and that you feel the need to connect me to Nazis, in order to make your point. How does one respond to such a person?
So good luck in your crusade, Mr. Fisher.
Dear Mr. _______, Please know that I disregarded nothing in your email, in fact I regarded your "should" quite closely. And as far as passion goes, your opinions were also stated quite passionately. And as for "discretion" and "propriety," artists have ALWAYS pushed the limits of acceptability and questioned the values of the status quo. It is part of the history we have inherited and part of the tradition in which we participate. Whether any individual artist chooses to work in that tradition, that is completely up to the artist. Discretion and propriety are considerations that only limit the creative process, not enhance it (in my opinion). And, again, as I fully respect your opinions and your right to state them, my difficulty with your position comes with your or anyone's attitude, whether from an individual standpoint or supported by an authoritative organization, that one opinion on Art is the only valid one.
I am not implying that you are a Nazi, and I assume you would fight tooth and nail against such a regime. But you yourself have made statements that are in complete agreement with the rationale for the Degenerate Art exhibition. I will also say I don't feel this to be a crusade, only a simple act of defiance in the face of a situation that may be important to even makers of discrete, proper art.
You ask "How does one respond to such a person?" and I answer: Continue to make your case if you choose, and we'll continue this important dialogue.
Mr. _____, I have read and re-read your messages. I compliment you on your academic training as a medical illustrator and you render quite well. I understand your difficulty in understanding the work and the context of the work you question. Your minimal exposure to Art History and Critical Theory in both your undergraduate and graduate course work has left you in this dilemma. I would suggest that you direct your passion into more course work specifically contemporary art history and art criticism. Post-Colonial Theory would be a good place to start - bell hooks is an excellent writer, Michel Foucault, Benjamin, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Coco Fusco, Edward Said, and many others. I have been a professional artist for over 20 years and I believe have contributed a great deal to the arts - a simple glance at my CV would attest to my contributions. My work has been included in international bienales, museums, arts magazines and books, and a year ago I was invited to have a retrospective at Depauw University. The reason I list these humble accomplishments is to give you some insight into our world of "those who exhibit in galleries". Artist may or may not get to exhibit in galleries but we all work from our own code to do otherwise is to be a commercial artist and there isn't anything wrong with that. Most of us have and continue to design things for others and take great delight. But most artist seek to refine our own voice. As artists, and I am sure Bill would agree, we are constantly searching and rethinking our own values and beliefs, to quote Voltaire, "Only charlatans are certain". Be well and hope we keep in touch,
By this removal, you have demonstrated that the current Board has no real commitment to art. This is a slap in the face to Latinos and Latinas everywhere, and to the arts community in particular. Any member of the Board who voted for this action should resign or be removed at once.
Keep me posted. There's a censorship web site. Do you know about the Nat. Coalition Against Censorship? You should contact them asap.
I cannot look at Jennifer Wilbank's face/eyes. What the F. is she ingesting???
Let me know if there's anything I can do.
keep the faith or whatever we say now for the 21st century, PAulo
Good for you! This far north, I think we tend to think of Wilbanks as an unscrupulous nutcase, but there has been little or no talk of the stereotyping - and clearly there should have been plenty.
Art really does have the power to threaten people... What a fiasco!
Too bad about this show and the censorship. One of the jobs of artists is to highlight issues like this-- it's not easy, and many people don't like feeling uncomfortable-- so they do what they have to do to feel comfortable again. But you just have to keep on presenting the art. An interesting sidelight to incidents like this is that the art and the issue have received far more publicity than if the art had simply been allowed to hang in the show without being removed. So, either way, you win.
Did the Quinlan ever back down? They should be totally ashamed, and you and Richard Lou are surely due a lot of notice in the press. Do you know, the Wilbanks fiasco news lasted maybe three days up here, and was mostly the subject for jeers and jokes. Noone up here picked up much on the racist angle in the standard press articles. There may have been more note in alternative papers as there are many Puerto Ricans and a fair number of Cubans and Central Americans in the northeast. Did the Quinlan have the rest of the "Latino Art" exhibition?
No, I don't think I'll order a t-shirt!
I can't believe that you didn't use corn tortillas! I am offended!!! - kidding.
there is nothing as ridiculous as censorship in art or any kind of expression...
i love you guys.
Hi, Bill, we posted your email. good luck. it would be funny if it weren't so not funny.
XXXXCiting! YOU HAVE MY SUPPORT! My car needs some sort of hose and the appointment is next Wed. So...If I can get some friend who wants to drive six hours with me...I'll try to make it. You make such cool happenings.I LOL about the Guerrilla portest at the reception. Do be careful, I saw a Sculpture prof in Augusta ('78 or '79) loose his job for exhibiting nude photos of his wife.
My nephew lives in the Gainesville area. His mother grew up there. She is involved with a rather odd Christian sect. Very strict and paranoid, about public schools, computers, etc. Anyway it's backwards. I feel like your going into Afganistan or something. You have my love and support - I get your point. Thanks for having the guts to take the system on. Tell the family I said Hi :-)
Great website. Great political ideas. Grateful for what you have been doing.
While I can't be there, I would like to add my name to those who protest this censorship. Banning "Missing Stereotypes" was bad enough, but perhaps could be blamed on a momentary loss of good judgment in not wanting to be embarassed by the truth. However, the mean-spirited and vengeful removal of the other works in the show days after the demonstration is an indication of how far those in power will go to silence dissent and to intimidate artists.
Most Americans are too busy to hear the growing cadence of fascist boots in this country, but the ominous sound is there, and artists need to open the eyes and ears of as many citizens as possible to let the public know what is happening in national politics, in the government of small and large cities, in corporate boardrooms, schools and in the art world.
Good luck with your protest!
Wow, Great work. A good way to start my Sunday.
The missing stereotypes - the buried dream of sex with the other. Well..