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Is Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket” culturally insensitive?

Dana Schutz's painting diminishes black suffering

She raises awareness for Emmett Till's story

 Getty: Scott Olson / Staff

In response to Dana Schutz's painting "Open Casket" on display at the Whitney Biennial, a group of artists wrote an open letter stating that Emmett Till’s gruesome death should not be used by white artists to promote themselves or their art. Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye of New Republic assert that Schutz’s interpretation of Till's mutilated face is simply not true enough to the original photograph that his mother took to spread awareness. The painting's face is smeared, robbing it of its most pungent feature, the horror of a destroyed human face. Livingstone and Gyarkye imply that Schutz's artwork embellishes it for white audiences.

Keep on reading at New Republic

In the face of criticism for Dana Schutz’s painting "Open Casket," Coco Fusco of Hyperallergic responds that a white desire to spread awareness for black suffering is not a bad thing. She argues for white artists’ roles in portraying and raising awareness of black hardship. Fusco points out that white artists, working with civil rights leaders, created anti-racist art that inspired civil-rights legislation. Emmett Till’s mother wanted the whole world to see the pictures of her dead son, and Schutz’s painting doesn't go against that. In her piece, Fusco dissects the resistance to Schutz's painting, understanding the deep history and pain behind it.

Keep on reading at Hyperallergic
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