Cause of death: implicit bias (painting)
Artist: Annie Young
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Ames Center, Burnsville, Minnesota
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: Burnsville Visual Arts Society (BVAS)
Description of Artwork: Cause of death: implicit bias is a painting by Annie Young, a blind artist, who is involved in advocating and inspirational speaking, and is a former member of the US Air Force. Young was invited to display her work at the “Art Fete” exhibition (May 9-June 14) in the Ames Center, Burnsville, Minnesota. This was orchestrated by the Burnsville Visual Arts Society (BVAS), a small non-profit and volunteer-run arts organization.
The painting is comprised of a yellow banner with the words "Qualified Immunity" as well as a figure of a child, which casts a vast black shadow wielding a gun and displaying a chest full of bullet holes in the shape of a peace sign. A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is positioned on the left-hand side of the painting, bearing the words "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." Excerpts from statements by Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the families of African American victims of police violence, are also displayed. One salient quote asks: "How many more black men will be killed by police officers before real change is implemented in the way America polices communities and people of color?"
With this artwork, Young aimed to stimulate discussion on the current issues associated with police violence against people of color. Her personal connection to this phenomenon, as a mother of bi-racial children, has further encouraged her to speak openly.
The Incident: The subject of the artwork was deemed to be "too controversial" for display by BVAS board members; who demanded that Young remove the painting and replace it with another. The apparent offense of "police bashing" was the reason for this objection.
In response, NCAC wrote a letter to the BVAS board, urging them to restore the work to the exhibition before its closing date, June 14 2018. The organization highlighted BVAS's contradicting decision, which goes against their mission to "encourage our members' artistic growth both professionally and personally and to advance the value of the visual arts in our communities." According to NCAC, BVAS has set "a precedent that could usher in demands to remove artworks that may be at odds with some individuals’ beliefs" (NCAC, May 31, 2018).
Results of Incident: The BVAS board members upheld their decision to remove Young's painting from the exhibition.
Burnsville Visual Arts Society Removes Painting About Police Killings, NCAC, May 31, 2018.