Wounds re-opened – artistic controversy

A recently exhibited Expressionist painting, entitled, Open Casket, has provoked much controversy and even demands for the painting to be destroyed.

The painting is inspired by the photos of Emmet Till after he was severely beaten and eventually drowned after being lynched for having reportedly flirted with a white woman. He was 14, black, and lived in the South of the USA during the 1920s…not a good combination.

Following his death, Till’s mother requested that her son’s funeral casket be left open in the local town hall for a week so local people could see the damage that had been done – thousands came to see the teenagers grotesquely mangled body and face. It became a major event in the early fight for civil rights for black Americans.

Understandably, the history of the civil rights movement in history is a loaded subject and still provokes much contentious debate. However, it is a signal of quite how divided America is. With the advent of Trumpism – is America reverting to a ‘Us and Them’ mentality – surely not. Since Trump’s inauguration 19 states have introduced legislation that may curb the freedom of expression – particularly within the arts.

The Witney museum, in New York has said that it will continue to exhibit the work – saying the painting is a chance for discussion – in light of the past issues of race relations in America and the future of such issues – with the rise of hate crime following Trump’s election.


Interesting times….




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