The controversy around artist Dana Schutz' controversial painting 'Open Casket' and the horrific death of Emmett Till continues at the Whitney Biennial. This shocking image above appeared in Google Images and is from former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos' website.
The debated work is based on a photograph from the funeral of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black American who was murdered in Mississippi for flirting with a white woman.
Schutz shared her perspective about the painting with ArtNet News, saying:
You’ve said in the Times that you approached the painting as a mother, and as a way to explore a mother’s pain. Would there have been no way to address the subject without, as your critics would have it, appropriating black experience?
It was the feeling of understanding and sharing the pain, the horror. I could never, ever know her experience, but I know what it is to love your child. I don’t know if there would be a way to address the subject without some way of approaching it on a personal level.
Could you have foreseen that you were stepping on a third rail by treating this explosive subject? If so, what made it necessary to paint Emmett Till specifically?
Yes, for many reasons. The anger surrounding this painting is real and I understand that. It’s a problematic painting and I knew that getting into it. I do think that it is better to try to engage something extremely uncomfortable, maybe impossible, and fail, than to not respond at all.
Will the reaction to the painting change anything about your practice in the future?
I’m sure it has to.
On Thursday morning several new outlets including Artsy, Frieze, and Out Magazine published parts or all of an open letter alleged to have been written by the artist Dana Schutz, requesting that the painting be removed from the exhibition. Shortly after, the letter addressed to Whitney Biennial 2017 co-curators Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks was declared to be a fake by Stephen Soba, the Whitney Museum’s director of communications.
Queer artist Parker Bright has maintained a vigil in front of the painting, blocking its view. Bright met with Lew and Locks to express his views, and he was assured that Schutz would not sell the painting or profit from it in any way, writes Out.
Artist Hannah Black sent a letter earlier in the week to the curators, requesting that the painting be moved and destroyed. AOC will revisit this story after digesting a number of essays and thoughtful pieces about the controversy.
Read AOC's original story, including the full text of Black's letter to the Whitney and new details around Emmett Till's death: Dana Schutz' Painting Of Emmett Till Creates Controversy At Whitney Biennial 2017 AOC Salon