A New Jersey drawing is raising eyebrows in its vivid depiction of slavery.
Artist Kara Walker’s illustration of sex acts between black slaves and white owners is on display for the second time at the Newark Public Library. While some consider the drawing a historical retrospective others are finding it offensive.
The artwork, which was originally displayed during Thanksgiving, depicts some of the horrors experienced by female slaves at the hands of their owners before and during the Reconstruction era such as a slaves engaging in oral sex. (Click here to see a photo of the artwork.)
Since the drawing has been redisplayed, library workers have complained that the illustration is inappropriate. They’ve met to decide on a plan of action and have covered the drawing with a cloth in the meantime.
“They said there are a lot of things in artwork we don’t want to talk about, and that made absolute sense,” said Kendell Willis, a library employee.
Library officials plan to invite Walker to speak on the painting, the importance of artistic freedom and on the influence of black artists in today’s society.
“The library should be a safe harbor for controversies of all types, and those controversies can be dealt with in the context of what is known about art, about literature, democracy and freedom,” said library trustee Clement A. Price. “There’s no better venue in Newark where such a powerful and potential controversial drawing should be mounted.”
Price notes that discussing the black experience in America can be a delicate issue.
“Should we be depicted sentimentally, romantically?,” he said. “Should some of the grotesque realities be depicted in art or movies?”