the intersection of art, the state of California, and the law…..
Ken White over at Popehat.com has a short article on California’s new ‘State = No Confederate Flags‘ law…
This raises some questions right off the bat. Why is the gift shop in the State Capitol of California selling novelty Confederate money? Why do legislators think that personal annoyances are grounds for legislation?
But the worst was yet to come: California officials, including both Department of Agriculture bureaucrats and counsel from the Attorney General’s Office, decided that the law means that an artist could not show his civil war painting at the Big Fresno Fair, which allows hundreds of artists to display their work at its cultural fine arts pavilion. Why? Because the Civil War painting — like many such paintings — included an image of the Confederate flag, and so allowing an artist to display it with all the other work at the state fair would mean the state was displaying it in violation of the law.
Now I am no lawyer…
So from a moral perspective, I can only think that while the government should have restrictions on its speech (like not displaying one flag or another, not officially supporting religions, etc.) as our founding fathers intended… those restrictions should not extend to private citizens. To do so would be wildly un-American (1st amendment anybody?)
From a purely artistic perspective, who gives a shit?
There are hundreds if not thousands of Civil War paintings (which naturally depict confederate flags) in government parks and historical buildings across the country. I grew up seeing paintings depicting famous Civil War battles in museums… they’re an integral part of the experience (even if your kid thinks they’re lame, they’re still being exposed to them, they’re still learning).
They’re historical art pieces. They make no real statement about anything. They are visual aids… so who cares?
Frankly, I think the only people who could take issue with a historical depiction are people who confuse the depiction of the act with the actual act (e.g. a portrait of Hitler in a history book means you’re pro Hitler). Which is quite silly even to just think about. Historical depictions are meant to fill in the blanks for people, they’re meant to show people things like the horrors of war, they’re there to help prevent the bad things from happening again. To attempt to remove historical depictions will only make it easier for people to justify doing those bad things again because they won’t have been exposed to the real world consequences of them.
Anyways, a piece of art is coming up against arbitrary and ignorant bureaucracy and that’s a shame…