A Teachable Moment

The painting “Inglorious Nocturne” by Holly Ann Sailors has provoked a strong reaction from many members of the Academy’s staff, faculty and student community. 

To address the serious nature of these concerns, the Academy feels that it has a responsibility to its community to create a platform where all sides of this issue may be aired in a reasonable and respectful manner. 

We have created this blog to encourage an open and honest dialog about freedom of expression and speech, the open exchange of ideas and the role that censorship plays in addressing provocative and controversial works in the arts.

- Peter Drake, Dean of Academic Affairs

While the faculty is not in total agreement about the success of “Inglorious Nocturne,” and hence of how offensive (if at all) it may be, we all applaud Holly’s ambition and courage in addressing such difficult subject matter. History painting, once the pinnacle of painting’s function, is now largely the territory of film and photography; contemporary art generally shies away from historical issues. Certainly racism is one of our history’s major quandaries: much of America’s early economic success is owed to unpaid labor, and some of the founders who gave such beautiful expression to notions of American independence were slave-owners.

The faculty also sees replacing the painting with one less inflammatory as counterproductive, partly because that would invoke censorship—even if the most salient examples in recent art history have involved public (government) monetary support, and The New York Academy is a private institution whose main function is to educate students. Most of all, avoiding these thorny issues would be missing the opportunity of a “teachable moment”.  As a school that promotes excellence in formal execution in figurative art, we hope that the discussion that follows of how and why this image provokes thought and emotion, will encourages students to challenge themselves in terms of content. We invite your comments.

- Margaret McCann,  Interim Faculty Chair

"Inglorious Nocturne
oil on canvas
  47"x 62"

I understand that this artwork is creating controversy and discussion within the school community. I am very aware of the taboo nature of this imagery and realize the potential for it to be perceived as offensive.  This is not my intention.

In no way am I trying to perpetuate the ideas of this hateful community. Instead, I want to unveil a never-ending trend of hate, prejudice and disillusion that is present in our culture. In all of my work at this time I am interested in fully capturing the viewer's attention through beauty and seductive coloring that then forces them to witness horrific subject matter. Overall, I wish to bring awareness to current social issues dealing with racism, hate, and injustice.

This painting is fueled by an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan that I had as a child. As a 7 year old, seeing this event was life-changing and revealed to me the simultaneous connection of beauty (in this case the fire, the costumes, the ritual) with abject horror (the brutal treatment and murder of minorities).  The controversial figures depicted in my painting are ghostly cowards disintegrating into the darkness presented through a palette of attraction. I am continuing a southern Gothic tradition that uses art to explore social issues and sheds light on the cultural failures of the American South.

- Holly Ann Sailors
, MFA 2012
Examples of artwork dealing with controversial themes (some w/links):
Philip Guston: "Edge of Town" and "Bad Habits" (top) 1970
("Philip Guston's Self-Doubt" by Donald Kuspit)

Chris Ofilli: "The Holy Virgin Mary" (link) 1996
Kara Walker
Kara Walker   (link to article: "Representing Race")
unknown racist illustration
Peter Saul: "OJ"1996
Glenn Ligon: "Benefit" 2007
Manet: "Olympia"

John Currin: "The Women of Franklin Street"
Lisa Yiskavage: "Pie Face"
Gustave Courbet: "Dreamers"
John Currin: "The Bra Shop" 1996

Lisa Yuskavage: "Day"
Carroll Dunham: "(Hers) Night and Day"
Gustave Courbet: "Origin of the World" 1866

Robert Mapplethorpe: "Fisting" 1978

Carolee Schneemann: "Interior Scroll"
Eric Fischl: "Tumbling Woman"

Jerome Witkin: "Taken" (section)

Jerome Witkin: "Butcher's Helper: Buchenwald"

Nicola Verlato
Gerhardt Richter: "Uncle Rudy"
Truppe: "The Fuhrer"
Lanzinger: "The Standard Bearer"
John Heartfield

McDermott & McGough
Comments welcome, anonymously is OK, too.


  1. The picture seems to glorify the KKK. People need to know that the KKK is a terrorist organization whose intent it is to terrorize and kill black people.

  2. I guess I have a hard time believing that in this day and time Holly's painting can create such an uproar, if indeed it has.

    No one could possibly believe that the painting is in any way in support of the Klan. It's title alone tells you that. My thoughts about this painting have more to do with making it a stronger piece of art, clarifying its tonalities, strengthening the depth of color in the shadow, ridding the painting of the brocade patterning etc.

    These are not portraits of Klan members. I think Valerio has already done that. The figures are swishes of white paint around the main event which is fire, the mainstay of life and simultaneously its destructor.

    The painting, in my opinion wishes to be about light and dark in the compelling way that Caravaggio used light as if you are viewing the world through bolts of lightning. The painter wants to evoke light as Goya did to illuminate horror, to create fear. The opposite of the glorifying use of light to reveal Grace. This is pretty darned clear.

    If you start even thinking of telling another human being what he or she can paint or say or write, then you are at game over.

    Is the objection to the painting that it was done by a Caucasian, done by a Southerner, done by a woman, done by someone who does not know a Klan member personally? For heaven's sake. If so, then your debate is not about the work itself any longer. If indeed there is a debate.

    I would love to hear someone explain to me what the controversy really is?

  3. I can understand why people were upset by the image. I see an appealing picture (w/pretty lace) painted in a skilled and rational (versus angry, sarcastic, or equivocal) way. The viewer is comfortably swept into the celebrating throng. More foreground space may have helped realize the intention, by rendering something going on 'over there' that the viewer could choose to (figuratively speaking) move closer to or keep a distance from. I very much like the idea of an image functioning as a 'wolf in sheep's clothing,' but there is not enough 'wolf'--not enough of a critique of the Klan imbedded within the language of the image. Without the title I think any KKK member could find it non-critical and even possibly flattering.

    After 9/11 I gave my BU students an assignment to make a painting about this huge historical event. At the crit we discovered how certain formal choices--color, shape, movement--gave imagery a more positive than tragic emotion. This is tricky stuff!

  4. It is inappropriate. To me it is a eyesore .

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. As a long-time friend of Holly Sailors, I can attest that she would never paint something like this with bad intentions in her heart. I believe the real issue here is not whether the painting glorifies the KKK, but the fact that people are considering this as controversial seems to come from a northern way of thinking that wants to turn a blind eye to the fact that these things actually happened here in the south long ago.

    Holly, I don't know if you'll read this, but i'm glad that you hold so tightly to your personal beliefs. An artist is at their peak when they manage to piss people off, and I'm so very proud of you for causing such a stir.

  7. I can understand why a painting depicting the KKK would cause controversy. I can also understand why it would be offensive to a person directly effected by such terrors in real life. I feel that among other things, the purpose of art is to make the viewer question and confront issues in the world around them or perhaps to shine some light on uncomfortable or even heinous things. Would those offended feel better if "THIS IS BAD" was written somewhere on the canvas? I feel that Holly Sailors is able to use her talent and technique to lure the otherwise apathetic viewer into a conversation within themselves and with other people about a subject which is all too often brushed aside as simply 'history.' I applaud her for taking on such strong subject matter-she is putting herself in the line of critic fire to broach a dangerous topic that too many artist shy away from.

  8. I believe this painting speaks volumes about how seductive & attractive evil can sometimes be (whether we like to admit it or not).

  9. The fact that it is a sensitive subject is what makes the piece good. Are we just suppose to forget and ignore all the things in history that might offend someone else? Lock it away in a box in the attic and act like it never happened? The KKK is part of a lot of peoples personal history, especially those of us that grew up in the south.

    And for anyone that has see the whole of Holly Sailors work, they will all tell you that she is a great talent to the arts community.

    Travis K

  10. I like that this painting is seductive and painted in a beautiful way. As a young child that this artist was when she came upon this hateful act in the woods, I am sure there was something captivating about the ceremony taking place that night. Ceremonies where a uniformed group of people stand together holding a single belief usually stirs up some magical curiosity. Now older, remembering the experience through the act of this painting, she has titled it "Inglorious Nocturne" - her judgment and opinion on the experience she had stumbled upon in the woods one night. She has deemed the group terrible, cowardly, and hateful with her title yet captures the the seductive nature of a certain ceremony that has befallen a seven year old. That is why paintings have titles - to bring attention an aspect of a painting that the artist wants the viewer to note. Anyway, the best paintings are the ones that stir up controversy, blogs, and conversation. Good job Holly.

  11. Having watched Holly make paintings over this last year its very clear to me that they come from a place within her that has stored many of the very difficult or uncertain moments of her past. Their concepts are never forced, instead she lets loose her demons and grapples with them as best she can. Non of her work is easy and it is not always beautiful. But it is unerringly honest and for all of that I applaud her. This painting is probably the first of many that will truly be cause for serious comment. 'Inglorious Nocturne' IS a beautiful painting and it has obviously succeeded in unveiling the horrors she wishes to be brought to light. Well done Holly!

  12. I am a educated black man and I don't find this offensive at all. You fucks that are just see a picture. You don't read the meaning of the picture. Anybody can see that yes this picture shows the KKK which is not a good thing. But its the background information you failed to see. This is a image she put together due to something that has happened in her past that she said was "Life-changing." Holly creates great art work. I hope to see many more of her work in the future. To the people that find this offensive.. FYM and SMD.. We got hats now. Holly continue to be great.

  13. Personally, I believe that this piece of art in no way supports or glorifies the KKK. It is obvious that this is an image that takes a very beautiful southern night, and taints it with something evil that represents hate. Being that the figures are disintegrating into the darkness, the piece shows that the figures are not only dark/evil themselves, but are in the "dark" intelectually as well.
    Being born and educated in the south, I am not proud of the racism and hate that has been, and is still sometimes instilled on minorites; however, I believe that we as a society do not need to be in the dark on past and present issues, (though they may be horrific) that affect mankind as a whole.
    I strongly feel that Holly is trying to educate her audience and show them through her provacative imagery of the south events that took place and still take place today. She is not glorifying the KKK itself, but simply showing us what she saw as a 7 year old child so we can have a reference point to deal with it just as she had to with such a young mind!
    Thank you Holly for making us think and realize our flaws. Keep the amazing art coming!!

  14. Maybe there should be horns and someone burned on the ground. Title: BBQ in Hell. There are some scary folks in this world. No matter how you dress them. Good Job Holly

  15. The pattern of the fabric makes an insult towards the kkk. It throws anonymity out and tells a story of class stratification and discriminating upper class cowards

    J cobbs

  16. I am proud of holly for taking this on. She is by no means in support of the clan; to think that is laughable. It is a hard thing to admit that ceremony, no matter its awful, hellish purpose, is seductive. I think that the addition of the delicate pattern, like woven lace, a mark of feminine beauty, is by far the strangest element of the whole piece. Though, it does make a lot of sense in the face of her childhood recollection of the event, where its purpose did not change its aesthetic. Joseph Campbell says our culture stagnates because we don't evolve as individuals through rites of passage, ceremonies that allow a metaphorical death and conclusion to one phase of life and a rebirth into the next. The passage rite, throughout all of human time, is marked by ceremony/celebration, which is all at once horrifying and beautiful. A culture disallowed to move through the world in these cycles of death and rebirth longs for them, and that is a huge part of the appeal of such savage institutions as the klan. The ceremony is the largest selling point for its evil, and to think of a little girl before that, a girl like holly who knows beauty in her core, and the kind of conflict that causes, is hugely rich territory. So, thank you holly, for trying to deal with the complications of such an issue, rather than turning it into a one dimensional stereotype, where bad is BAD and good is GOOD. And look at all of this wonderful response and dialogue!!

    -Jacob Hicks

  17. I know Holly. She is a giving, educated, grounded young woman with exceptional talent, that is an asset to any community. Anyone who meets this young woman, instantly loves her. I also know that personally, she would never glorify this particular subject matter. It was a turning point in her life that she was instantly curious, yet scared of. The moment in her young life that she was forced to know what real hate meant and the terror that coincides. What the real issue seems to be, is that racism is still VERY prevalent in the south. In some sections of the south, it is still very much a common way of life. Though we do not all agree and most of us hold ourselves to a higher standard, we are still forced to deal with those who don't. It used to be called ignorance (for which there is a cure), however, these people have no intention of ever letting go of that part of "history". It is a shameful and despicable way to think of your fellow man, yet there are those who still believe they are in the right.
    Holly is in no way seeking to beautify this incident in her life. What she does do, is compells the viewer to face the cruel reality that racism is hurtful, painful and wrong. I am no artist, therefore, I see no need for more foreground in this event. I do see her exceptional use of color and the beauty of the painting itself. Do we really need to discuss the fact that she painted this rather than simply took a picture of it? If it were a photo that was submitted to Time magazine in the early 1980's, would there be as much of a question as to it's intent? Yes, her talent shines in this artwork, yet you are forced to see what is real. That is the point. You are shaken, you are shocked, and you must decipher the feelings it invokes. If it is too painful and too disgusting to you, stay home in your little box and stew in your ignorance of life. Holly, well done, my dear. You have caused a controversy that may open doors for such hatred to be discussed openly and confront the terror that it is still very much alive in the south. I am so proud of you for doing what you felt in your heart and being brave enough to let it shine.

  18. Simply put Holly ----JOB WELL DONE!

    Your painting is not only beautiful but thoughtz provoking as well. The KKK and is a part of our past and unfortunatley is some areas a small part of our present. We will never be completely rid of racism and discrimination no matter how it presents unless someone continues to shed light on the issues and keeps them out in the open and not in the shadows. Your painting makes us think about issues we would rahter ignore - it is easier, safer and less painful that way. A painting can inspire feelings of beauty and enjoyment but it a very special artist that can create a beautiful and powerful painting that makes us appreciate the beauty while making us evaluate ourselves and the world around us at the same time. Your painting not only show cases your talent but your strength and courage as well.
    Thank you,
    Reggie Scoggins

  19. Every person who tells me race doesn't matter anymore and that I should just get over it could learn a lot from this piece that I've seen. Subtle enough to catch you, powerful enough to leave a mark. Visual criticisms aside; it is a subject that we, as Americans, are often bullied into ignoring in the name of "progression". Growing up as an Asian American woman in the south I have had various experiences with white supremacists as well as people who consider themselves not to be racist yet are. There have been few things more invalidating than being told that my race doesn't matter, isn't important, and that no one cares. I care. It is my heritage, and I am proud of how it has shaped me as a person. To tell someone not to address their heritage and question it is oppressive; no matter what their race may be. Yes, it may offend or even hurt some people despite that not being our intention as artists. But I feel that it is more important to have these conversations than to suppress these things never to be confronted. Only through this confrontation, and intellectual discourse can we truly say we're addressing these issues and not just forgetting them to save face. Pretending a rabid dog does not exist does not make it disappear, the danger is there until you deal with the problem.

  20. The same emotional reaction that has stirred this "controversy" is the same emotional reaction that would draw a individual to a group like the KKK. The same emotion that would allow someone to wrongly interpret or judge this painting or the person who painted it as racist is that same emotional reaction that would allow a white man to view their black brother with no regard. It is an emotional reaction void of an understanding of the truth. The artist has created a canvas that has brought to life a true emotion and that in itself is to be respected. Mankind has never seen the truth in its purest form. Therefore ... we should seek truth, knowledge and understanding. The truth will set you free.

  21. The issue is not whether the KKK is bad (we can agree it is,) or whether the artist is a racist (her written statement makes it clear she is not; her intentions are good), but why many people (of all colors) find it disrespectful or insensitive. I find too wide a gap between the title's directive and the festivity of the image. Holly is too skilled a painter to need sensationalism to make a point. Looking at Witkin's painting of Buchenwald above, the title reinforces the image, whose emotional point of view is tragic. He exploits facial expression to portray evil. Is the Klan's costume enough to depict evil, when the figures express power in celebration?

    I'm reminded of Goya's portrait of the royal family. He managed to make them all subtley insipid, and places himself in a dark corner. Since Holly's intention involves a childhood memory, perhaps placing a child looking on (not immediately noticable) would express her point of view more clearly.

  22. PS Makng the lace more prominent, and thus more ironic (contradictory, as the title is), is another option.

  23. this is 2011

    isn't it time we put an end to black SLAVERY and population control?

    the "KKK" hatred is still present in NYC, please help free our brothers and sisters.

  24. Frankly, I’m shocked that a school that chose to represent itself with a woman masturbating at the CAA conference, and had a woman eating herself out, and pornographic breasts coming through a forest at last years Deck the Walls and also showed a pedaphiliac racist painting of asian girls with burning stuffed animals would be in such a tizzy over this painting. When did it become a crime for someone to finally have something intelligent, interesting and well painted instead of riding out shallow shock value? Maybe that's why its provocative.
    And has anyone been to a museum or Chelsea that’s complaining about this piece? It’s been 25 years since Serrano’s Piss Christ, Mapplethorpe, etc. It’s a painting. If you feel threatened by it then maybe you should re-examine your own beliefs or just look at a different painting and move on.

  25. I’m proud to be at a school where art is being used an arbiter of constructive social change and a genesis for intelligent critique. Historically, right wing political art has been used as an oppressive propaganda tool and left wing political art is often either obnoxiously didactic or sacrifices aesthetics for the message. The rare artists that reflect an adroit cultural acumen with skill and beauty such as Francisco Goya’s Atrocities of War, Kathe Kollwitz’ work surrounding WWI, or William Kentridge on the Apartheid confront us with the human potential for cruelty and darkness that can be scary but if we listen it can also show us light and inspire us to be better at being human. The sublime in these works of art also challenge us to make decisions about our thoughts and ideas and awaken us to the power of painting.
    I put Holly Ann Sailors’ Inglorious Nocturne in this league, laud her for tackling this issue and stand behind the work 100%.

  26. A beautifully executed painting depicting an ugly segment of our nation's past (and present - this hasn't disappeared, unfortunately). I'm proud of Holly for having the balls to tackle such an inflammatory topic. Of course it has "provoked a strong reaction from many members of the Academy’s staff, faculty and student community." Evoking an emotional response and creating dialog is what we hope to do as artists, and I'd say she's right on with this piece. I agree that perhaps there are ways to make the intent of the painting even more evident (see McCann's Goya comment above), but the greater point to me concerns censorship. I hope the NYAA continues to regard this as a "teachable moment" and that "replacing the painting with one less inflammatory" should certainly be considered "counterproductive". Thank you, Holly, for opening up this dialog and also for standing behind your work.


  27. I was afraid I was going to have to get really angry in this post, but thankfully those of you who have shown your overwhelming support for Holly have said much of what needed to be said already. So in addition, I would like to not only celebrate Holly's courage but thank her for having the nerve to dig deep into her own experience and unapologetically bring it to the surface. We spend a lot of time broadening our skills and our vocabulary at the academy. We want to paint smart, and talk smart, and all in all carry on as representatives of a potential rebirth and optimism in the art world. And yet so little is ever said about courage, integrity, and sincerity and without those things what good is the rest? I think it is a good time to stop and ask ourselves and our school where we really stand.

  28. Eugene Fonsworth IIIOctober 16, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    This painting IS offensive. As it should be. If one is comfortable looking at this piece without uneasy feelings, then something is horribly wrong. This painting is thought provoking and allows you to think analytically about yourself and your own views. Thoughts that engine us to be outside of our own comfort zone do disturb us, and that's the exact point of work like this. To allows the viewer to think, analyze, and review ourselves and our personal thoughts about the particular subject matter. Art, in my mind, should be thought provoking and uncomfortable. Its what makes Art in my eyes. Making something that gives the artist a voice and allows multiple view points on the initial subject matter of the painting to be discussed and opinions observed. The painting itself, in my eyes, is painted beautifully. The colors echo off of eachother and pull your eyes all over. The light from the fire gives shadows that to me, speak volumes. The way she makes your eyes follow with the "swoop" like brush strokes on the right side pull you around the whole painting to see it as a whole. The colors are my favorite. Very aesthetically pleasing (and I'm sure that's the issue with this, and the fact a white female from te south painted it) but you cannot deny it's luster and prowess to pull you in and just stare at it. Good job!

  29. I think your painting is straight from the heart, witnessing a scene such as this one so young in age. Then to recapture it in your painting, you are an amazing, talented young woman. I'm so proud of you. Love you dearly friend.

  30. It doesn't matter that a white female made this; it's about how the story is being told. Kara Walker, who is African-American, employs both the pretty cultural silouhette format, and satire, to express her idea. Her work makes you think about the legacy of slavery, but also leaves no doubt as to her point of view; no Klan member would want her art on their walls. Guston uses the 'Klan motif' with personal (self-potrait) narratives, and a cartoony-expressionism to critique himself as 'artist-anti-hero'.

    Realism is trickier visavis historical references because it has wider popular appeal. Thus it arguably has greater responsibility to convey its message effectively, because it is easiest for most people to 'read'. No African-American looking at this image needs to wonder about their feelings about the KKK: as one (non-artist) put it, "If this painting was in the front window, we would no longer have a front window". This speaks to the power of this piece as well as to its possible problems. Does this image only 'preach to the choir'? The non-elitist appeal of realistic figuration arguably increases the necessity of the artist using it consider various ways it might be percieved.

  31. Eegadz I can't believe I just used the term 'klan motif'! Anyway my point was that Guston uses it metaphorically, not literally...
    Also re the comment about hyper-sexual imagery, I believe if there had been a volume of complaints, the Academy would have responded. However we are living in anti-heroic age--the nude has not only left the pedestal but is in the bathroom/bedroom. Depicting the ridiculous aspects of being human seems more appealing to the art world these days than the sublime potential. Lucien Freud is one artist that for me manages to imply the latter while depicting the former.

  32. "When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest."- William Hazlitt

    We should all be grateful when something or someone we cross paths with has the power to make us think, reflect, and FEEL on a level that is deeper than what we normally experience on a daily basis. Part of the beauty of being human is being able to experience the entire spectrum of emotions, from intense dislike and discomfort, to the utmost in pleasure and joy.

  33. "Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry." ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  34. An artist I follow..Yinka Shonibare once said “I give the audience two options. You see the king go into the ball, indulge himself in the excess and get murdered. But I give him the option to get up again. It’s up to the audience to decide which version prevails! Do they want him to stay murdered, or do they want him to be saved? The audience is seeing both possibilities. In real life, of course, there is no rewind, or replay; an event happens and that’s it” This is how I feel about the painting. I am giving the viewer options. Do you sit and watch this? do you stand in awe of the beauty too long? If so, Is there guilt in being so mesmerized by what you see?
    I am putting the viewer in a position of power to decide to flee or confront the image. The power of the piece lies in the uncertainty…if the message was completely clear..why make it? For me, great art is a mystery and a commentary, one that is confrontational and creates discussion. I want to connect the artist and the viewer and integrate our personal histories.
    @McCann, I disagree that the painting "preaches to the choir". The figures are disintegrating and seem to be vibrating as if turning into the fire themselves. I believe that the addition of the patterning does not glorify the characters, but in agreement @ Jon Cobbs that “The pattern of the fabric makes an insult towards the kkk. It throws anonymity out and tells a story of class stratification and discriminating upper class cowards.” I am using the pattern to put the characters on stage in a powerful manner with a deconstructive approach (Choppy brushwork, and disjointed patterning.)

    For an example of Yinka Shonibares work that I find inpsiring look here: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/yinka_shonibare_mbe/images/TwoHeadsAtOnce_542.jpg

  35. At the time this event occurred, I believe Holly was 7 years old.It was during my tenure as Pastor of the local Methodist Church about 4 miles from the spot where she saw this.I distinctively remember the signs posted on our Church doors as well as my office by the participants warning us of the repercussions of associating with those of another race. This because of the many beautiful Black and Hispanic children in our Church which we ministered to.I pondered the ignorance and depravity of the souls inspired with such hatred and insanity and felt compelled to do absolutely nothing.Although angered and insulted by their imposing comments and threatening letters I could find no reason to defend our children nor their families.I realized that there is no one so blind as one who will not see.Years have past. Holly Ann Sailors grew up into a beautiful young woman with a Godly character and brilliant mind inspired by Truth and given the gift of inspiration to share Truth with others.For those who still grope in darkness and misery, Truth still cries aloud.For others who do not stumble in darkness, Truth still illuminates life's way.If those individuals who participated in this and other events like it could speak to us from their graves now, I am certain that there would be no response needed today either.Holly simply displayed the Truth in the way her heart saw it.Oh my God, give us all eyes to see ! Rev. Jackie C. Potter

  36. To believe something to be controversial and to then hold it at arm's length is to experience some sort of fear of retaliation. To experience fear of retaliation is to put forth some form of faith, value, and validity into the "controversial" subject in question. Long story short, being fearful of this painting is being fearful of the Klan. This is a work of romantic satire, meant to illustrate a concept in an intriguing way. Hell, getting bent out of shape about it is just as laughable as the moral values of the subjects depicted.

  37. Many people have good reason to fear the Klan, as others have good reason to fear neo-Nazis. A painting of a Nazi rally with an uncertain point of view (which is the issue: not the intention\ POV of the artist, but of the painting; not What but How) would also upset people. Lace as a critique of the upper class is too elliptical a reference in this realistic scene, as lace is not directly indicative of wealth, and the KKL is not an aristocratic organization.

    Holly, I love the Yinka S. Piece with 2 female torsoes headlessly fencing. She seems to employ more absurdity than your piece does- I'll check out more of her stuff.

    "When you paint someting with care and attention, you are advocating for it." - Julie Heffernan (roughly paraphrased)

  38. The majority of comments and discussions here seem to be in favor of the piece and the subject, which has created a venue for such provocative dialogue.

  39. Dont believe the hype.

    Black people have never been brought to justice

  40. I assume the last comment means black people have never experienced justice...

    Came upon this germane poem in the NY Review of Books by Frederick Seidel:

    "Back Then

    Negroes walking the white streets
    was how it seemed on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
    One morning in 1971 it began.
    I converted so to speak on the spot to the Klu Klux Klan.
    My big blue heartfelt eyes hid in a hood and white sheets,
    Completely ready to burn a cross and buy a gun.
    A friend in the DA's office said it's a gun or run.
    I had thought these particular streets belonged to rich whites,
    Almost as a matter of rich white's civil rights.
    The block on 70th between Park and Lexington Paul Mellon's sister sanctified.
    The always Irish doormen along Fifth Avenue nearly died--
    All of a sudden blacks were crossing over the border from their Harlem home
    And there were barbarians wandering the streets of Rome.
    I knew the man who wrote this poem."

    The writer uses first person past tense to vividly and shockingly describe a point of view, but the reader doesn't get this til the last line. Clever and effective conatruction, arguably harder to in relatively atemporal visual art. Guston's 'self portrait as Klansman' comes close (with cigar).

  41. First, I do agree, that is courageous and extremely good that Holly attempts to tackle such an aspect of history and life, as racism and the KKK. I also believe that it is a great asset to the academy to have open the discussion about this painting, to dialogue and debate. But I disagree with what most people have posted here. Tanking the painting by itself as an autonomous image, it does not communicates the moral criticism and the unveiling of racism, but instead communicates nostalgia, warm memories and a non-critical point of view.

    I think it is very important to think about a work of art as something that has its own intentions, which is what gives art its most exiting and greatest characteristics, which is that it can be alive, not just as a mere representation, but as something that resonates with meaning and touches the real through the relationships between its own elements, and doesn’t rely upon external speeches, discourses, or essays to become, or to be defended. Some examples were given by Aliene, where some art has reached the sublime, and has gone beyond any apologetic and propagandistic discourse or superficial and paternalistic didactic images.

    The point here is not to judge the artist but the painting and from this standpoint I am sorry to say it, but even if Holly’s intentions of are good, and have a strong moral message, they don’t matter as much as the intentions of the painting. The artist’s intentions matter when you want to see how successful they were in the artwork according to their own goals. As I mentioned to Holly, the KKK members seem to be in a ritual of celebration going around one of the mayor symbols used to terrorize their victims, a symbol of power and White supremacy, the burning cross, and because of lace pattern, the palette and the size of the painting, the art work seems more nostalgic, warm and non-critical than anything else.

    I would ask the same question that MaCanan has asked (Is the Klan's costume enough to depict evil, when the figures express power in celebration?) and I would go a little further and ask: Is the image of the KKK enough to symbolize contemporary racism? What would you like me to see in racism in society today? Is it enough to paint it to make it current or for the painting to be referring to current issues? Or is it enough to paint KKK members to show that racism and White supremacy ideologies are not something of the past or a matter of mere extremists?


  42. ...Continue from above.

    I agree that some great art is confrontational and creates discussion, but I don’t think that to make uncertainty or controversy a final point is what makes great art. Something intriguing, and that initially could seem disparate ( as Shonibare’s work) or that at some point seems uncertain and offensive (Kara Walker’s work) and then arrives at powerful commentaries or to be more clear, at powerful images of specific realities, its what would make great art. The use of uncertainty and controversy and ambiguity is indeed powerful, but to make it an ending point to the technical narrative and conceptual framework of art work its not very helpful, especially when the message intended is indeed very clear, as is in Holly’s painting, where the message intended is to unveil racism, that it is bad, destructive and terrifying, then the strong moral message, in Holly’s painting, is supposed to be clear and it should be the ending point of the art work.

    This point especially is what makes the painting disturbing to me. I would love to be taken apart, feel offended, confronted, be terrified, and at the end arrive to what could actually be a adroit cultural acumen or a great social commentary that goes beyond a mere commentary and unveils a truth about a nation’s core values and struggles, as is Kara Walkers art work, but “Inglorious Night” doesn’t arrives at that point where it unveils racism and unfortunately just lets me with the part where I felt disturbed.

    Maybe it will be helpful to say that I based all these arguments upon my personal experiences with racism for being an Afro Colombian, coming from a “poor 3rd world country”, and from HBCU I attended in South Carolina.

    To finish I would like to say something especially to Holly: all my criticism comes from respect and a serious look into your efforts, and an attempt to give you helpful feedback. Furthermore I believe your efforts to make the best art work you can do should be applauded. That is, I believe, the best way to really take advantage of your education, just to dare to do it.

    Daniel Esquivia Zapata, MFA Drawing 2011.

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