Another art form people of color created, another gross overreaction from institutions of University of Wisconsin.
April 14, a graffiti artist — yes, an artist, not a vandal — was arrested in connection to 11 counts of graffiti and one count of disorderly conduct for harassing a bystander. Was the artist, Denzel McDonald, arrested privately, in a quiet manner? No, of course not. Police officers interrupted his class and asked him outside, making a spectacle out of what could have only been a grave error, or sinister fear-mongering.
[UPDATED] UWPD arrests student during class over graffiti highlighting racism on campus[UPDATED]: Around noon Thursday, University of Wisconsin Police Department officers removed a student from class to make an arrest in Read…
For what? Spray-painting messages against racism and racists. All the while, no headway has been made on the people who defiled public spaces with racist iconography.
This seems like old news in Madison as art forms that have traditionally belonged to people of color, like graffiti, have traditionally received no respect from the city. Just this past month a fight that happened to be at a hip-hop event left an employee needing stitches and the venue decided to shut down booking hip-hop for a year.
Though The Frequency apologized and rescinded the ban, the campus community has made no such effort to better understand the motivation behind McDonald’s own artwork around UW.
It’s bullshit. McDonald’s cause was good — he was trying to help society by challenging people to consider their own racial prejudices. Whether or not you agree with the message is not important, because that is what art is meant to do. The artist wanted to make people think, but instead he was made into an example. This is what happens if anyone seriously questions the reputation of our university or tries to reveal #TheRealUW.
Confronting #TheRealUW: Marginalized students reveal experiences of an unwelcoming campusLauna Owens, a 19-year-old black freshman at University of Wisconsin, woke up slightly late for class Thursday morning in her Read…
Since I am a white, male and heteronormative person, I am not going to try to speak to the outrage many people must feel from this event. It is not my outrage to have, and I do not want to drown out those with more important voices on the matter.
Instead, what I can do as a student of arts and humanities is to critique and inspect his art. Artists do not deserve public shaming or embarrassment. The punishment may have not fit the art, but I hope my following interpretation will.
Though many imply a link, not all of his pieces immediately target racism. But I would like to look at this particular piece:
This piece in particular is McDonald’s boldest effort. Using his artist name, God, he directly links the white man to the devil. While this is upsetting to some, it makes an interesting point.
What has the devil done? Well, he deceived Adam and Eve and essentially removed them from their native home. Sound familiar? White men have historically deceived people and removed them from their native homes. I don’t even want to have to say this, but it doesn’t say all white men are devils. It says the devil is a white man. I think the artist’s claim holds value here.
Its presentation bolsters this idea. The striking red paint and unfinished E’s and A reinforce the subversive, though accurate, statement he is making. Finally, the contrast between devil being a white man, and God, the artist, being black offers a powerful subversion of roles that throughout western history, have been made the reverse. For more information, see descriptions of the Devil and God in famous western literature.
I’m not claiming that my interpretation is correct. Really, I welcome people to disagree with me, and would love to have a conversation with anyone and everyone about the art. I’m presenting my analysis because this should be the response we are having to McDonald’s art, thoughtful discussion — not mindlessness or barging into his classroom and arresting him.
Art has long stood for modern philosophers as the vanguard of good in civilizations. Now can we please treat artists in Madison as such regardless of background or medium?
Henry Solotaroff-Webber ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in English and Spanish.