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April 12, 2005

Stamp Of Disapproval

My personal definition of art is pretty broad. But I think this has crossed the line.

Apparently, the Secret Service is concerned about it, too.

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn't expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show's first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of "Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin," and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including "Patriot Act," showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

The agents asked what the artists meant by their work and wanted museum director CarolAnn Brown to turn over the names and phone numbers of all the artists. They wanted to hear from the exhibit's curator, Michael Hernandez deLuna, within 24 hours, she said.

That particular work looks like a threat to me. It is obligatory on the Secret Service to check it out. And before the leftists complain -- remember that there were events at a couple of gun clubs shut down in the 1990s because the targets depicted Bill &/or Hillary. Anything that even looks like a potential threat must be investigated.

What other "art" would you find at this exhibit?

The Columbia exhibit features 47 artists from 11 countries and depicts powerful religious and political leaders worldwide on mock postage stamps. One, called "Citizen John Ashcroft," shows Ashcroft's face fashioned from images of naked bodies at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another piece -- "I saw it in a movie starring Steven Segal" -- shows a series of images of an airplane nearing, then crashing into the Sears Tower, and ends with the Chicago skyline without the skyscraper.

In other words, it is some stuff that is simply sick and disgusting. While I recognize that such "protest art" falls within First Amendment protection (though perhaps not the Bush stamp -- threats against the president are illegal), that does not mean I have to approve of it or its message. Furthermore, I wish the college had the integrity to disassociate itself from a show that includes both the Bush stamp and the 9/11 style attack on Chicago. After all, the school also has a First Amendment right to not associate its good name with the exhibit.

And I am appalled, but not surprised, at the Left-wing fear-mongering of the exhibit organizer.

Hernandez said any government involvement could come close to trampling First Amendment rights.

"It frightens me ... as an artist and curator. Now we're being watched," Hernandez said. "It's a new world. It's a Big Brother world. I think it's frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art."

Hernandez said he hopes the public sees the exhibit as a whole -- and not just about one man or even one country. Some works Hernandez thought would be more controversial challenge Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Others look at Nazi Germany and the killing fields in Cambodia.

This frightens him -- I wonder if it frightens him as much as the fake stamps he sent through the mail in the fall of 2001 frightened the postal workers who handled them. The design was of a black skull and crossbones with the word "Anthrax" on it -- during the height of the anthrax scare.

Where would you find this "artwork"? Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, Chicago. Here's hoping there is some serious protest -- and financial ramifications for the college.





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