Today's Special (installation)

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Date: 2000

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Photography


Artist: Bill Thomas, Photographer

Confronting Bodies: Tom Hogan, President of Foley's Department Store

Dates of Action: Spring 2000

Location: Foley's Department Store, Houston, Texas, USA

Description of Artwork: The installation Today's Special commemorated the 1960 sit-in protests that resulted in the integration of Houston's downtown lunch-counters. The provocative photograph, titled Racial Tensions, featured black and white figures balanced on opposite ends of a see-saw, with nooses around their necks and hands tied behind their backs. The point of the piece according to Thomas was that, "balance must be maintained for them to survive, and any attempt by one to harm the other will result in mutual destruction."

The Incident: The exhibit had been on display for five days when it was removed by president Tom Hogan in response to "a few complaints by African-American employees who were offended by the noose imagery. Where most people saw it as a very strong positive message, we believed it was important to be sensitive to those who did not," said Hogan.

Results of Incident: In response to Hogan's opinion, Thomas observed, "I'm beginning to think that the notion is growing that the right of objections transcends the right of expression." The exhibit was removed from the windows of Foley's store. Its sponsorship of the show was entirely voluntary and it had no legal obligation to display any of the artwork. The show was later exhibited at the Vine Street Galleries in Houston.

Source: NCAC