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Airport Officials Censor Local Artist

Harstfield-Jackson AIrport officials have decided to remove the painting "Voter Suppression," created by Douglasville artist Vinny Sherfield, after passengers found the work of art "disturbing."

Officials at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport have recently decided to suppress a painting entitled "Voter Suppression," created by Douglasville artist Vinny Sherfield.

The definition of suppress, according to the Merriam-Webster Online,: 1 : to put down by authority or force : subdue <suppress a riot> 2 : to keep from public knowledge: as a : to keep secret b : to stop or prohibit the publication or revelation of.

Sherfield's painting was on display at the airport as part of the National Arts Program Exhibit, but was taken down about a week after it was displayed.

"The Airport Art Program staff, who have complete discretion regarding works displayed in the National Arts Program Employee Art Exhibit, made the decision to replace Sherfield’s painting with another of his works after complaints from passengers that the first piece was disturbing," DeAllous Smith, public information officer for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport said in an email. "The staff discussed the decision with Sherfield, who agreed to give them an alternative piece." 

"We weren't happy at all with that decision," Sherfield said. "We did not agree. But when they're taking the painting down, what choice did we have? I asked them to explain. I said, 'I need a concrete answer.' Kathrine Dirga (Manager, Art Program at Hartsfield-Jackson) told me that whenever they receive a complaint they have to do what's best for the airport."

Sherfield wanted to create a piece of art that would let the youth of today know what sacrifices people have made in order to exercise their right to vote.

"Visuals work for these kids, ages 16 to 24 years old," he said. "Since my background is in education, I realize you can send a message with visuals. When you see a picture, it touches you on an emotional level that lasts forever.

"I've heard stories from my great grandparents and my grandparents, telling me of their struggles," Sherfield said.

His creation reflects recent efforts to limit voting, he said.

"It's a 100 percent reminder of our recent struggles to cast our votes," he said. "Can you imagine waiting in line 6, 7, or 8 hours to vote? Can you imagine if that was your first time voting? Would you really want to come to vote again or even stay in line?"

Once it was taken down, Sherfield said he couldn't even leave the airport before people began sharing their feelings.

"We were approached by multiple airport employees who expressed their disgust that the painting was being removed," he said. "Some said that they were outraged that the painting was removed from the exhibit."

This gave Sherfield an idea. A few days ago, he took the painting to the stairs of the Douglas County Courthouse and asked local residents what they thought. A sampling of those videos are attached to this story.

Should "Voter Suppression" have been removed from the Airport's exhibit? Tell us in the comments, below this article.

Julie Camp December 21, 2012 at 01:20 PM
CENSOR? The painting is disturbing. Why would people want to look at a painting depicting someone being beheaded when they're going on vacation? No thank you.
Helen Chambers December 21, 2012 at 02:59 PM
While many would like to forget the history of our country, that should never happen. Mr. Sherfield's painting should not have been removed for the voice of a few who might have been offended. The portrayal of a beheading of African Americanis is the portrayal of injustice, not that anyone was actually beheaded. Women too fought for these rights. Apparently many art pieces were reviewed by a committee which is given the responsibility of choosing art for display in the airport. Apparently these were very astute people to see the importance of this portrayal. I feel no part of our American History should be suppressed, even to the flags. One might not agree with everything in our history but should respect it and the opinions of others. All American History should be taught in our public schools, and not limited to what is politically correct. We do have freedom of speech, thus far anyway.
Lynn Hubbard December 21, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I think it is a brilliant piece of work. It is a snapshot into our history. History that is so often over looked. His other works appear to be just as powerful. Disturbing? Perhaps only to those with a closed mind.
Lucy Richardson December 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM
@Julie Camp While some people may see the painting as disturbing, others see it as freeing. The Conderate Flag is disturbing to some, but people still waive them proudly in their yards, at their houses, on their clothes... Art is a form of expression. Just like you expressed how you felt with words, he chooses to express himself through art. Oh, and they approved the painting before they hung it up. FYI
Julie Camp December 22, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Violence has no place in society. Ask Newtown and they might agree.
Brenda December 22, 2012 at 05:25 AM
I don't want my husband and kids seeing a painting like this on our way to go ice skating in NYC. This "art" has no place in an airport. This has nothing to do with race - it's about taste!
Carl Pyrdum Jr. December 23, 2012 at 03:05 PM
The artist wanted a concrete answer as to why his piece was removed? He already had one in my opinion. A large enough segment of the traveling public seeing his 'work' at the airport were offended by it and complained. What a pious and self aggrandizing belief system these supposed artists have to think that the public should be forced to view their offerings absent any criticism. For this artist to believe that other people should be forced to view his supposed 'art' regardless of how offensive it is to the sensibilities of others is insulting. Here is a tip for this artist and for other 'aspiring artists.' Display your art in a gallery somewhere or amongst your friends in the art world and if people wish to see it they will come and see it. If it warrants interest, they will buy it. If they don't that should tell you something about the appeal of your offerings. In the interim, stop attempting to use government fostered programs to foist offensive visual representations on those in the public who do not wish to be confronted with them in public places.
Bruce December 28, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I kind of like the painting. What I find "disturbing" is that it was pulled from display instead of serving as a sounding board. Comments good, bad, indifferent or anything else could have been used to start a conversation about what is laughingly called "our government," a sham we all know is not true.

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