policy
Artist Gwenn Seemel’s controversial painting “Hello Sh*tty, Available in a White House Near You! (Grab Him by his Pussy.)”: has been rehung at Montclair Public Library. COURTESY SUSANNA BAKER

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

A controversial painting that had been taken out of Studio Montclair’s “Love & Fear” exhibit at Montclair Public Library has been reinstalled. The portfolio exhibition, featuring the work of six artists will be on view at the library, 50 South Fullerton Ave., through April 29.

The painting, Gwenn Seemel’s “Hello Sh*tty, Available in a White House Near You! (Grab Him by his Pussy.),” went back up this afternoon, April 12, around 3:30 p.m. It had been removed from the show because of bad language within it — a judgement call made by Studio Montclair (not by library personnel).

Seemel’s painting includes a picture of Donald Trump wearing a red baseball cap with the slogan “Make America White Again.” In the background are the words “sh*tty, sh*tty, sh*tty” — which caused Studio Montclair to pull the picture from its show.

In previous years, the library’s policy was not to allow art with curse words to hang on its walls. Studio Montclair had operated under the old policy for 15 years.

“We have had to remove art many times over the years,” said Studio Montclair Executive Director Susanna Baker, adding that Studio Montclair has always been sensitive to the parameters of showing work in a public space that caters to young children, and respected a policy not to hang nudes or art with bad language.

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READ: CONTROVERSY AND QUESTIONS IN SMI’S ‘LOVE AND FEAR’

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But, she stressed, this is not Library Director Peter Coyl’s policy. Studio Montclair had not discussed the policy with library personnel, and the artist had not known.

In a written statement, Coyl described what happened as an unfortunate misunderstanding.

“The Montclair Public Library does not have a policy restricting what artwork is hung in the library. We support free speech and abhor censorship. Ms. Seemel and Studio Montclair have rehung the painting at our request and it will be on display through the end of the month with the rest of the exhibition ‘Love and Fear.’ We hope it promotes thoughtful conversation and discourse,” Coyl wrote.

 “We are thrilled to have it back up,” Baker said.

“When they first were installing it, people were really angry on both sides,” said Studio Montclair board member RitaMarie Cimini.

The slogan on the baseball cap could have people up in arms, Cimini added. “I think there will be a lot of controversy.”

The show features the work of six artists —Amy Charmatz, Joanie Landau, Erik Peterson, Carol Radsprecher, Theda Sandford and Gwenn Seemel — that depicts the emotions of love or fear on a personal, social, or cultural level.