Some Republican lawmakers in Georgia are objecting to an art exhibit at Kennesaw State University called “Art AIDS America” that “introduces and explores the whole spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful, surveying works from the early 1980s to the present.”
The Marietta Daily Journal reported last week that state Republican lawmakers are calling the exhibit “sickening,” “trash” and “garbage”:
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who chairs the Georgia House committee that funds universities, called the exhibit “sickening” and “a blatant political statement.”
Ehrhart said he called KSU president Dan Papp to complain about the exhibit this week.
Papp did not return calls from the Journal by press time.
Moving forward, don’t expect to see such exhibits at KSU in the future, Ehrhart said.
“I’m going to make it real clear, let’s just put it that way. I had a lot of success in getting Tech’s attention in spending taxpayer money on ridiculous things,” said Ehrhart, referring to his criticism of how the Georgia Institute of Technology handles accusations of sexual assault. Ehrhart said when Georgia Tech ignored his requests, he eliminated the university’s request for a $47 million building.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said after visiting the museum he was both disappointed and disgusted.
“Typically, communities send their garbage to the dump and dispose of their body waste at the local sewage treatment plant,” Tippins said. “KSU has chosen to celebrate and elevate it to an ‘art’ exhibit. Trash is trash. I think it speaks for itself.”
State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, said the exhibit undermines the university’s reputation.
“Making this kind of trash publicly undermines the otherwise great work that’s happening at Kennesaw State University and makes it much more difficult for those who love the university to talk about the great things that are happening there,” Setzler said Thursday. “I think this sadly trivializes the very serious issue of AIDS, which is something that we as a nation are committed to dealing with in a serious way.”
Ehrhart believes “a fully loaded porta-potty would be a better artistic expression” than the exhibit at Kennesaw State.
The lawmakers reportedly particularly object to “a painting by Jerome Caja of a naked man wearing a clown mask engaged in a sex act with a skeleton” and “a mixed-media installation that includes pictures of the late President Ronald Reagan, conservative godfather William F. Buckley Jr., conservative Sen. Jesse Helms and televangelist Jerry Falwell, mixed in with what appear to be Nazi storm troopers under a pink triangle.”
The criticism is reminiscent of the right-wing outrage over a National Portrait Gallery exhibit on the gay and lesbian experience in American art in 2011.