A University of Miami art professor sparked outrage when she converted three American flags into KKK hoods. Her exhibit, which she calls “American Mask,” is part of a faculty art show on display until November 12.
The flags look eerily like their KKK counterparts, although the eyes have been burned out, only darkness behind them, and the poles on which the flags rest are comprised of Nazi swastikas. Billie Grace Lynn, the artist behind them, writes on her personal site that the artwork suggests that “bigotry and racism are hiding behind our flag.”
Almost immediately, the artwork has stirred controversy, igniting a firestorm of comments on social media, reported the Miami Herald.
“This is disgusting. This is disrespectful,” said Patricia Young, a black employee working in the same building as the University of Miami art gallery in an interview with WSVN. “I can’t see it being a positive message any way you put it.”
“What can this actually help?” Young added. “Burning an American flag? I have no idea what this symbolizes, what this helps out. Who does this reach?”
According to Fox News, such a reaction was the point of the pieces, conveying a conversation she had with a construction worker as they talked about the meaning.
“I asked him what he thought it meant and he said, ‘It’s racist.’ And I said, ‘Well, it is racist, it’s about racism. It’s about people hiding their racism behind the flag, behind their patriotism.’ Instantly all of his angry energy dissipated as he had this realization. This is what democracy is. It’s messy business and it requires us to talk with each other.”
“I’ve always felt that art could and should act as a mirror to the culture,” she told the University of Miami News. “So that we can have these kinds of conversations within the context of talking about art.”
She said the inspiration to creating the art stemmed from the Charlottesville riots of 2017. In those riots she saw protesters carrying the American flag next to a Nazi flag and a Confederate battle flag.
“I just thought that’s what needs to be protested—that the America flag is positioned in between those two symbols of hatred and racism,” she said. “If there was ever a time to show this work, it’s now.”
She added that the piece is “addressing what’s going on in this country with how racists, the alt-right, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other bigots at large are using the American flag as a mask for their own beliefs.”
Lynn confessed that creating them were hard for her. As a girl scout, she was taught to never let the flag touch the ground.
“I consider myself a patriot and I love this country. It was very painful for me to cut the flag to make it into that shape. But I think that’s what’s happening, the country is in pain,” she said. “We’re being torn apart by believing that somehow having nationalistic pride is connected to being of a certain race, the white race, and the real truth of this country is that we’re a melting pot, people from all over the world with different beliefs, different orientations, different ideas. That’s what makes America great. And I don’t want the American flag to be taken as a symbol for white supremacy, and I think that is what’s happening and that’s a dark path to go down.”
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