Let me start by saying I’m not pretending to answer age-old questions about race relations with paintings of the Confederate flag. But you may have guessed as much. I’m simply recounting my experience of growing up in South Carolina. As with the strong graphic lines of the Confederate Flag, there were distinct lines in life. Geographic and cultural, acceptable and punishable.
The Confederate Flag has been a point of contention in South Carolina for generations. The flag has traditionally been a prominent icon, seen on license plates, shirts, tattoos, bumper stickers and keychains among other items. The “Southern Cross” was even displayed atop the state’s capitol building from 1962 until 2000. Arguments were made to remove the flag and to uphold its public display in Columbia. I knew folks entrenched on either side of this discussion, so I was privy to both points of view.
During this time the phrase, “Heritage, not hate,” became popular. It became the “politically correct” slogan accompanying the Confederate Flag. Paraphrased: the Confederate Flag doesn’t have any hateful associations — its public display is only a tribute to history, heritage and a way of life.
Heritage, not hate. To whose heritage are we referring?
What if this powerful symbol were only about the sacrifices and tribulations of people fighting to maintain their way of life? Or what if the flag only encompassed simple family traditions being passed from generation to generation, with none of the mistakes made along the way? What if the flag were reclaimed and used as a defiant symbol of perseverance and cultural vibrancy? Or what if in the flag, we were only witness to its worst associations throughout history?
More questions, I admit.
Included in 2011 Halpert Biennial at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC — Juror, Steven Matijcio, current Director and Chief Curator of the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston.
Composite view as exhibited (76" x 88" polyptych)
On view at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
(Panel 1) 35" x 41" - Mixed media on panel with collage and roofing cement
(Panel 2) 35" x 41" - Mixed media on panel with collage and image transfers
(Panel 3) 35" x 41" - Mixed media on panel with collage and image transfers
(Panel 4) 35" x 41" - Mixed media on panel with image transfers
Each panel exhibited alongside a "guide" to historical context