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Can Art Amend How We View History?

Can Art Amend How We View History?

Princeton University presents Making History Visible: Of American Myths And National Heroes until January 14, 2018. The exhibit features the work of Titus Kaphar and other contempoary artists. Art writer Jacoba Urist explains that the exhibit spurs viewers to both see and feel the contradiction between freedom fighting and slavery. The exhibit accompanies the Princeton & Slavery Project, which is exploring the University’s “historical ties to the institution of slavery.”

“These days, public sculptures often seem intertwined with historical regret. There’s the bronze Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Roger Taney effigy outside the Maryland State House; the Confederate soldier in front of North Carolina’s Durham County Courthouse. This historical regret has inspired a rush to topple sculptures. But the feelings of remorse and shame have also stirred impassioned debate about the ways in which art ought to reflect America’s complex legacy: Who should embody the values of today? What distinguishes art from political propaganda? And which artists will fill the empty plinths?

Princeton University has one answer to these questions with a new public-art project that confronts the school’s participation in the nation’s early sins. On Monday, the university unveiled Impressions of Liberty, by the African American artist Titus Kaphar. The sculpture is the conceptual core of a campus-wide initiative that begins this fall and aims to reconcile the university’s ties to slavery…”

Jacoba Urist

READ MORE: A Contemporary Artist Is Helping Princeton Confront Its Ugly Past | The Atlantic

The question is…

Can Art Amend History? | Titus Kaphar

“Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There’s a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?” ~ TED

Art Changes the View



About The Author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about an alpha Bichon named Chester, and his friends–with a dash of humor and a dab of poli-sci. JoAnn worked professionally in the Psychology and Information Science fields. Retired now, she enjoys the creative life.


  1. Robert A. Vella

    It’s very effective. Art is sensuous, intuitive, and emotionally connective. It cannot replace the complexity of words and speech, but enables communication in the most visceral of ways.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Yes. Sometimes breaks through resistance or mental blocks.

  2. Rosaliene Bacchus

    Thanks for sharing Artist Kaphar’s TED talk and his vision for America.

    “We cannot erase this history [of slavery],” he says, “we have to know it.” What we need, he later says, is “an amendment.” Like the amendments to our constitution, an amendment to our historical past in our art and monuments says: “This is where we were. This is where we are right now.”

    Are we ready for such an open and honest look at where we are today?

    • JoAnn Chateau

      I hope so, because we’re going there. The National Lynching Memorial will open next year. That should be BIG.

  3. lauriewoodwardauthor

    What a wonderful idea. It incorporate the transformative nature of the creative process with peace action. Love it!

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Glad you love it, Laurie. It’s all part of moving in the right direction. Art has its own power.


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