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.