Art Student’s Display Sparks Controversy

By Alexis Figueroa |Staff Writer|

Three nooses hanging from CSUSB buildings created quite the controversy Friday, April 28 and left some students with serious mixed feelings.

At the center of the dispute was an art student, who asked to be identified as Bee, whose art installation piece was introduced to the public.

The display included three nooses which hung outside the entrance to the Visual Arts Building, as well as a cross painted in red and the American flag.

Those who passed by the display were reported to be disturbed by what they saw and many came to the art department’s office to comment.

Student Stephanie MacLaine was informed by the art departments secretary that a few people came into the office and stated that they were “scared” by what they had seen. MacLaine had a few thoughts of her own about the display.

“I thought it was an art student using controversial imagery to draw attention to their artwork that they wouldn’t receive otherwise, that they are probably untalented,” said student Stephanie MacLaine, “I thought it was really unoriginal.”

At one point during Friday, campus police were called as some perceived Bee’s art to be a form of hate speech, according to art professor Katherine Grey, Bee’s professor, who created the assignment that inspired the display.

“The assignment was that they could choose one of three words as a point of departure if you will,” said Grey. “The words were gravity, evanescence and fecundity and I am pretty sure he worked with gravity in that assignment in a literal and metaphorical sense,” continued Grey.

Grey stated that her student’s work had some successes and failures.  The work Bee was using was very graphic and used politically charged imagery.

Grey questioned whether or not Bee’s intention came across like he wanted it and thought the backlash her student received was interesting.

“It was great that people were paying attention and that they do have reactions. Whether favorable or not, I feel like it is a good thing that people were aware of what they were looking at and seeing around them,” said Grey.

“I feel that is the point of art, and I feel that there isn’t art that doesn’t provoke such reactions. I do not think that things have to be inflammatory to be good, but I am glad that people responded to be perfectly honest,” continued Grey.

The artist said he was surprised by the controversy his artwork caused, but in a statement he issued to the campus he assured that his intentions were not at all malicious.

“I understand that some individuals thought that there were negative, racist elements or messages being presented by my installation and I wanted to assure you that they are not, my piece was not aimed at any group in particular, rather every political, religious, government or social faction that has ever used sanctioned killings, violence or threat of these against another group as a tool to further their own agendas thereby painting their own flags in blood,” stated Bee.

Bee further explained his decision to showcase the particular items that offended many. “I simply chose the cross and American flag as the main symbols because it is what I thought my audience would most readily identify as symbols for their own religion and government,” said Bee.

“As for the use of the noose as a symbol, I intended to give the people who were silenced by these violent factions another chance to be accounted for in the present day and remind the public of such crimes against humanity that have taken place in the past as well as the present,” continued Bee.

Bee expressed his sincerest of apologies within his statement for any headache that the physical dimensions or location of his artwork may have caused those who saw it.

Photos by Alexis Figueroa

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