Pro-Poli

Can Art Amend How We View History?

Artist Titus Kaphar
Written by JoAnn Chateau

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

 

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About the author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She sometimes writes fiction about Chester (the Alpha Bichon) and his friends -- with a dash of humor and dab of Poli-Sci. JoAnn's views and insights are tinted by her past profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and Library and Information Science training. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.

6 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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?

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