Donald Trump probably isn’t happy with an art professor from Alaska. Thomas Chung, an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, produced a unique painting that includes an image of President Trump’s severed head. The painting, entitled “Everything,” is part of a faculty art show being held on-campus. The painting depicts a naked Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America in the Marvel movies, with his genitals blurred out with paint. He is standing on a pedestal with a prostrate Hillary Clinton holding onto one of his legs. Evans is holding the severed head of Trump aloft in his left hand and a sign with a quote on it in his right hand.
The quote, painted in red, says, “Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it.” On the sign, it indicates Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe made the statement. However, according to Snopes, the chief never uttered those words. The quote was from the 1972 movie, Home, penned by screenwriter Ted Perry.
Not surprisingly, the painting is not the favorite of the residents of Alaska; a state that overwhelmingly supported Trump during the election. Residents are demanding the University lose federal funding, remove the painting, and fire the professor. The University Chancellor, Tom Case, wrote an e-mail sent to students and said the University supports Professor Chung and has no intention of removing the painting.
“We understand that some may not support this exhibit, but universities — including UAA — are a place for free exchange of ideas, diversity of thoughts and of opinions, and ideally, a place for conversation to occur around our differences and similarities, Freedom of expression is fundamental to our mission and we support our faculty and students in exploring their ideas through creativity, research and scholarship.”
Many conservatives don’t agree with his description of university campuses as places for the free exchange of ideas; especially considering the treatment of conservative firebrands who attempt to speak on campuses like Cal Berkeley. Other readers wondered what the University of Alaska’s response would have been if the painting had depicted the severed head of President Obama. They asked if the University would be as supportive.
The argument to defund the school, to take away all federal monies it has received in grants, was flying around chat rooms and comment sections. The problem with defunding the University of Alaska, or any university, is how to make up the gap in the loss of funds. If the school were to lose money from funding, they would certainly have to shut down many of the projects paid for by the funds. However, not every project could be shut down. They would have to take more money from the state budget to make up the gap. Over time, this could lead to increased state taxes for the residents. An article on Bloomberg.com shows what is at stake for universities that lose federal money.
Thomas Chung teaches a variety of painting classes at the university including, experimental and advanced painting. He was born in New Jersey and raised in Hong Kong and New York City. He received his Master’s of Fine Art from Yale University in 2013. At Yale, he distinguished himself by being the first art student in the history of the university to win Yale’s Theron Rockwell Field Prize. He also taught at Yale, as well as the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. He volunteered as an art instructor at the NYU Tisch psychiatric ward and the Yale-New Haven psychiatric hospital.
During an interview, Chung explained the reason behind his painting. He said, “After Trump was elected, I spent days just weeping. And it was really surprising because I’m not a political person.” He designed and made the painting as a reaction to his disappointment at the elections results. However, his painting wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction. He was hesitant to place it in the show, saying “I was really torn about putting this piece up a faculty show, because I would never talk about my own political beliefs to my students.”
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/ Getty Images]