I've been thinking about the Dana Schutz' Open Casket painting the last two weeks and here some of my thoughts:
- Aesthetics: Why does nobody talk about aesthetics? Dana Schutz’ painting is aesthetically a bad painting. And not good bad, but bad bad.
- Cultural appropriation: reading Roberta Smith (who leaves it out all the way, she just doesn’t even mention it) and others, it seems that a lot of white art critics ignore cultural appropriation, the fact that because of history and current contexts, white people should keep their hands off certain topics - it’s just not theirs to deal with. But white people can’t seem to accept to have their so-called “freedom” limited - that’s when they call for Enlightenment, which was based on taking the freedom away of other people, just not of the whites. White people’s freedom on the expense of others. What kind of freedom is that?
- White criminals: If Dana Schutz is interested in the violence done by racists, why doesn’t she paint white criminals who did the racists deeds - would that be too uncomfortable, too much about her own white race than about the pain of “others”? Nicer to depict the victims, more comfortable repeating the stereotype of black victims? And you can wash your own guilt away?
- Censorship: the whole uproar about censorship and the comparisons made with nazi times are ridiculous. Hannah Black’s letter is about asking the artist to reflect and then (hopefully) to accept the painting is damaging and has to be removed, and this all by her free will because just like in writing, one can change one’s mind upon reflection on the matter, and take something back because one is big enough to contradict oneself.
- Open Casket: an argument I overheard and I think it true: the mother of Emmett Till decided in 1955 to have an open casket, which was very political. But in the different political circumstances of 2017, she probably might have made a different choice. This is exactly what Dana Schutz with her painting in 2017 has no sensibility about.
- Exoticism: ugh to Dana Schutz argument about how she just wants to emphatize with the pain of the mother. One can't just single out motherhood in this much more complex case. There is this kind of racism that claims to be good. Like the “where are you from?” question when one meets somebody who doesn’t fit one’s framework of who should be living at a certain place: You don’t look like you are from here - you don’t belong here - so where do you belong? but is defended as: I’m good! I’m not a racist! I’m interested in you!
- Black Critics: what is uplifting about this whole discussion is that black critics are coming up strong with a voice that no longer can be ignored. White artists and critics in the still dominantly white art world better deal with it.