Who says that art is ineffective in times of authoritarianism? Budding artist 18-year-old David Pulphus hit a nerve with Republican lawmakers, as his painting depicting Ferguson, Missouri protests was removed from the Capitol despite winning Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s congressional art competition. Republican lawmakers have been removing the painting, only to have members of the Congressional Black Congress return it to its rightful position. Particularly rankling is Speaker Paul Ryan’s comment that “we do have rules governing these paintings”–as if paintings are subjects to be governed. Unfortunately, it seems to be his final call to remove the painting.
Read Sophie Tatum and Betsy Klein’s report in partial below, in full via CNN here.
The painting won Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s congressional art competition in May and was created by 18-year-old David Pulphus.
Clay, of Missouri, said congressional members have no role in judging the competition, and he called the saga of the painting a “manufactured controversy.”
Reichert, a Washington Republican, said the painting violated the rules on artwork at the Capitol.
“The Congressional Art Competition is an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of students in every corner of our country – and visitors from around the world see their talents on display when they walk through the halls of our Capitol,” Reichert said in a statement. “However, with any competition there are rules, and these rules exist for a reason. This painting hung in clear defiance to those rules and was a slap in the face to the countless men and women who put their lives on the line everyday on behalf of our safety and freedom.”
Ryan told the congressman that the Architect of the Capitol made the determination, Reichert’s office said.
The rules of the art competition state: “Exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed,” according to the statement from Reichert.
Ryan said it isn’t a question of First Amendment rights.
“Of course, this young person has the right to do something like this wherever they want to,” Ryan said. “But we do have rules that govern these paintings, so it’s not as if you have a constitutional right to hang whatever you want in the House hallway in the Capitol gallery.”