At Tennessee’s Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, a town just Northwest of Nashville, an art student has made national news for choosing a row of rainbow-hued crocheted nooses as the subject matter for a piece that supposedly was to be about the theme of the “arrival of spring.” Six nooses of different colors were hung in a tree near the Trahern fine arts building, for all on campus to witness. The student claimed to be shocked when onlookers did not associate the nooses with the coming of spring, but with an obvious attack against the LGBT community, laced with overt racism.
Within hours of the installation of the “artwork” from an introductory course in using yarn as a medium, a picture had been uploaded to the NAACP of APSU’s Instagram page, with the caption, “So this is at #APSU.” The police were contacted, as well as the FBI, and the college held a forum for those concerned at the Morgan University Center Ballroom. The artist claimed:
My intention with my sculpture project was to address the cycle of death and rebirth that is represented by the arrival of spring. I had no social or political statements in mind. I did not take into consideration that nooses are a racially charged symbol, for that I am sorry. I can not apologize enough for the pain that my art work has caused, it was certainly not my intention. I am thankful that APSU Campus Police removed the art work when it was clear that it was causing so much pain.
Austin Peay’s President, Alisa White, reacted with a heartfelt apology, and the Facebook page for the university reported that the FBI presented their findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The office said that after its initial review, it was taking no further action.” The Professor for the class also claimed that they had not seen or approved the piece prior to the incident.
Reactions from Austin Peay State University’s Facebook page varied. To some people, this was an obvious and flagrant threat to the LGBT community, to others, the university’s removal of the piece was censorship, and to another person, the piece was remarkable for generating conversation about LGBT issues.
As a member of the LGBT community myself, and an artist, I am skeptical there was any benevolent or artistic intent here. Homophobia is rampant in the state of Tennessee, as is racism, and it would not surprise me at all if the feigned innocence of the student was just a simulation. I do agree that the news of this piece of loosely-named art has generated a dialogue about why threatening your fellow students will be met with immediate and total rejection. There is no place for this type of message on a public college campus anywhere in America.
Perhaps the student can hang it in their room as a bizarre and disingenuous ode to spring renewal.
See the comments from the university Facebook page below, with names blurred out to protect the innocent, and not-so-innocent:
Featured image via Facebook