A University of Miami faculty art exhibit received criticism earlier in October after one of its artists — University of Miami professor Billie Lynn — fashioned Ku Klux Klan hoods into American Flags and called the exhibit "American Mask."
What is the professor's reasoning behind this?
- Lynn, an associate professor of sculpture originally from Louisiana, said that her experiences growing up in the Gulf Coast state — where "the Klan is really strong" — helped inspire her to create the exhibit.
- She added that the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests also offered inspiration, noting that marchers parading both American and Nazi flags prompted her to craft the hoods.
- "I consider myself a patriot," she told the Miami New Times. "We have to wake up and see what is happening in our own country."
- "I have been really disturbed by all the things that have happened in this country, particularly since the election," she said. "People really felt they could hide their racism behind the flag. ... The flag is not sacred in itself."
What was the backlash?
- The Miami New Times reported that "almost as soon as American Mask was placed in the window, arguments began" and noted that "dozens of commenters called it everything from ‘disgusting' to 'patriotic'" after a photo of the exhibit was shared on social media.
- Patrick Young, a man who works in the same building that houses the art gallery that has featured "American Mask," spoke to Miami's WSVN-TV, where he called the exhibit "disrespectful."
- Young said, "This is disgusting. This is disrespectful, and people just don’t understand it. I can’t see it being a positive message no matter what way you put it."
- WFOR-TV in Miami reported that construction workers, who visited the art gallery, noticed the exhibit and notified the media.
- "I think that KKK symbol with the United States flag — I don't believe that that's a piece of art," Willie Sanders, a man interviewed by WFOR, said about the exhibit. "I believe that that's a sign of racism."
- Sanders added, "I'm rejecting everything: the flag being ripped up, the design, how it's made. I'm against all of that."
- Even Lynn herself has said that she finds her own art "offensive."
- "I actually find it offensive, to tell you the truth," she told WSVN. "And when I sew them, when I make them, I find it very disturbing. The piece is my way of trying to challenge people to think."