Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beacon, NY Artists

The formerly industrial city of Beacon, New York, as reinvented itself as a tourist destination with a revitalized Main Street consisting of art galleries, antique shops, restaurants, etc. There are two empty factory buildings at the intersection of Main Street and East Main Street that the city apparently wanted to dress up for the tourists and the locals. Artists were invited to paint on media that were the size of the windows in these buildings.

These paintings were placed in the windows of the larger building that faces Main Street, and they are generally attractive and tastefully done. However, the artist or artists who did several of the paintings on the “round house” that faces East Main Street had other ideas. His or her artwork is offensive and in poor taste. Now before you cry “First Amendment” and “Freedom of Expression” let me briefly describe the paintings in question and then point out a few things.

The most offensive (at least to me) was a painting of the crucified Christ surrounded by what could only be called anti-Christian material. One of the more offensive items on the painting was a dollar bill with the picture of Jesus and overlaid the words “In God we must trust, it’s the law.”

Another painting was a take-off on a White Castle ad that said “Crack. What you crave.” Another was a take-off on a Miller beer ad that said “Military Might, Less Chilling, More Killing.” Lastly, there was a painting of an overweight Ronald McDonald strolling out of what is presumably a McDonald’s restaurant.

Let me make three points regarding this art:

First, these pieces are on public display, not in a gallery. If they were in a gallery, you would have a choice as to whether you wanted to go in and see this stuff. Since they aren’t in a gallery but in public space, care should be taken not to be offensive.

Second, public artwork like these pieces shouldn’t be instruments of advocacy or bigotry. There’s a time and a place for advocacy, and it isn’t on these buildings. Such public displays of art should be decorative and entertaining, not in your face bigotry.

Third, these pieces of art on the roundhouse that I just described are clearly the work of a bigot who cares little about offending Christians. Because Christians aren’t politically correct and are easy targets since we don’t issue fatwas, comedians, the entertainment industry, and apparently some artists don’t care if they offend us. I believe the city should remove such hateful trash because it is offensive to a sizable segment of the population and isn’t in keeping with the spirit of unity that has been fostered in Beacon. Before you yell “Censorship” let me say this: truly tolerant and mature people self-censor in order to try to maintain a polite and tolerant society. Those with little or no tolerance don’t care whom they offend – they’ll trample others for the sake of their so-called “artistic self-expression.”

I focused on the anti-Christian piece, but the others are also offensive. The anti-military poster was inappropriate. The military is doing its duty in carrying out our government’s policies, misguided as you might believe they are. Don’t go after the military – go after the politicians who set policy. I understand the message of the plump Ronald McDonald, but the artist was trashing the symbol of a very good charity. The crack piece was just plain stupid.

I ask that artists and others not narrowly define “tolerance” to only include those who are politically correct, but to be tolerant in the original meaning of the word. Only then will society truly have moved to a higher level instead of continuing to degenerate into a ruder, cruder, and more bigoted state.

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