Newark, NJ — A library that covered up a controversial drawing afters some found it offensive have put it on display once again, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way. The artwork, a drawing that depicts a white male having oral sex with a black slave — amongst other things — is said to be a piece concerning the turmoil of the Civil War time period.
The drawing, created by black artist Kara Walker, shows “the horrors many blacks faced after the Civil War and during reconstruction.” The drawing also depicts the Klu Klux Klahn gathered around a burning cross. The art piece was initially hung during Thanksgiving in the Newark Public Library’s second-floor reference room, but officials were forced to cover it with a cloth after some workers complained about its content.
Library officials decided to have a discussion on the piece with library staffers, and came to the conclusion that the artwork would be displayed once more.
Library director Wilma Grey didn’t think displaying the drawing was a problem, but she covered it with fabric after people complained until further discussion could be had. Scott London, a longtime art collector who loaned the piece to the library, wasn’t happy that the work was covered at all.
“I thought we were past that,” he said. “I was surprised.”
Kendell Willis, an employee, said he had a better understanding of the library’s position after the meeting with officials.
“They said there are a lot of things in artwork we don’t want to talk about, and that made absolute sense,” he said.
Officials hope that further discussion will help people accept the piece. Grey and library trustees plan to invite Walker to talk about the work, artistic freedom and the role of black artists in society.
“The library should be a safe harbor for controversies of all types, and those controversies can be dealt with in the context of what is known about art, about literature, democracy and freedom,” said Clement A. Price, a library trustee and Rutgers history professor. “There’s no better venue in Newark where such a powerful and potential controversial drawing should be mounted.”
The Inquisitr has discussed other controversial forms of art pertaining to difficult events in history, such as the Holocaust memorial painting allegedly made with ashes of crematorium victims.