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Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lawrence artist miffed after Topeka restaurant removes Brownback painting

October 4, 2012

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A print of Gov. Sam Brownback — crying and apparently going down in flames — made it through a recent Lawrence gallery exhibit without incident. The same artwork did not last long at a Topeka restaurant, where building owners have removed it from an exhibit.

Artist Dave Loewenstein's painting of Gov. Sam Brownback was removed from a Topeka restaurant where it was on display. Loewenstein said removing the painting amounts to censorship, but the owners of the building that houses the Blue Planet Cafe say the image was taken down so as not to offend Brownback's daughter, Liz, who works there.

Artist Dave Loewenstein's painting of Gov. Sam Brownback was removed from a Topeka restaurant where it was on display. Loewenstein said removing the painting amounts to censorship, but the owners of the building that houses the Blue Planet Cafe say the image was taken down so as not to offend Brownback's daughter, Liz, who works there.

The difference? Brownback’s daughter doesn’t work at the art gallery.

Owners of the building that houses Blue Planet Cafe, 110 SE Eighth Ave., told Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein on Wednesday that they removed “Reject Brownback” out of respect to Brownback’s daughter, a building employee. The print would have been displayed with several of Loewenstein’s other politically charged artworks through the month of October.

“This decision has nothing to do with politics or our belief in your freedom of speech through art,” Greg Ready, who along with Jeff Carson owns the Thacher building and Gizmo Pictures upstairs from the restaurant, wrote in an email to Loewenstein. “Liz [Brownback] is a valued employee and friend to us and I (we) felt strongly against subjecting her to having to look at a picture of her father burning at her place of employment.”

Loewenstein is decrying the removal as censorship. He said that while he understands no law was violated, he told the owners they overreacted.

“I just said I was really disappointed, I understand that they had the right to do it but that I thought their actions were way out of proportion for the reasons that they gave,” Loewenstein said.

Loewenstein said he questioned the owners’ motives because he does not know how Brownback’s daughter feels and has not personally spoken with her. He added that while he sympathizes with relatives of public figures, he also thinks they need to be prepared for criticism politicians may face.

Ready, however, said that the governor’s daughter may have grown up around criticism but that he stood by his decision to take down the print. He said he made his decision before telling her and that she did not influence the choice.

“I don’t think anybody could not think that was disturbing — anybody with a soul at least,” he said. “Try to picture going to work and seeing your dad’s picture in flames, no matter what his profession may be.”

Ready said he believes the artwork was hung conspicuously with the purpose of getting a reaction and that he “fell for it” — but that doesn’t mean the print is going back up.

“I felt that this was meant to be mean-spirited and spiteful, so I let my conscience make the decision,” he said. “And I hope that people will understand that and try to divorce the political side from the actual situation.”

Brownback’s office said the decision was made by private business owners and that neither the governor nor his family had anything to do with it but declined further comment. Liz Brownback did not respond to an email requesting an interview on Thursday.

Loewenstein said the flames in the picture aren’t actually licking at Sam Brownback, but rather are in the background — symbolic of the damage Loewenstein believes the governor’s policies are doing to the state. Loewenstein cited social programs, public education and public arts support as policy issues that especially concern him.

Michaela Carmen, the Blue Planet Cafe’s art curator, said the restaurant also was disappointed that the painting came down.

“We support local art,” Carmen said. “We are very anti-censorship in any art.”

Carmen said the cafe is honored to show Loewenstein’s work and expects it to be good for business. She said Gizmo employees walk through the entrance they share with the cafe to get to work and frequently come downstairs to eat lunch there.

“Reject Brownback” is a spray-painted stencil print last displayed in Lawrence at the Invisible Hand Gallery’s June Final Fridays show, “Friends of the Hand.” Loewenstein is best known for his public art, including the “Pollinators” mural at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

At Blue Planet Cafe, it was hanging with other prints of what Loewenstein calls “Kansas politicians gone awry.”

“El Secretario de Xenofobia” pictures Secretary of State Kris Kobach saying, “Your papers, por favor.” “The Feral Senator” pictures Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, with a pig-face and a shotgun.

While the politicians in his “awry” series are all Republicans so far, Loewenstein said he’s watching Democrats, too.

“It’s not about the political party to me at all,” he said. “I would be equally critical of anybody who I felt like was harming Kansas.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this story. Features reporter Sara Shepherd can be reached at 832-7187. Follow her at Twitter.com/KCSSara.

Comments

Floyd424 1 year, 6 months ago

Poor Liz Brownback - what is she three years old. Did she forget her father is a public figure and that is goes with the territory? Grow up, but then we are in Kansas where Art doesn't matter. Just ask Brownback about killing The Arts in Kansas.

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booyalab 1 year, 6 months ago

If they weren't going to keep it up for the political message, they should at least keep it up because it's an aesthetic masterpiece...

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Liberal 1 year, 6 months ago

Beatrice....Here is a little more....

Prior to the 20th century, classical liberalism was the dominant political philosophy in the United States. It was the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and it permeates the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other documents produced by the people who created the American system of government. Many of the emancipationists who opposed slavery were essentially classical liberals, as were the suffragettes, who fought for equal rights for women.

Basically, classical liberalism is the belief in liberty. Even today, one of the clearest statements of this philosophy is found in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. At that time, as is the case today, most people believed that rights came from government. People thought they only had such rights as government elected to give them. But following the British philosopher John Locke, Jefferson argued that it's the other way around. People have rights apart from government, as part of their nature. Further, people can form governments and dissolve them. The only legitimate purpose of government is to protect these rights.

People who call themselves classical liberals today tend to have the basic view of rights and role of government that Jefferson and his contemporaries had. Moreover, they do not tend to make any important distinction between economic liberties and civil liberties.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

Support Political Art YES!

No one is strong armed into agreeing with it....

No doubt the art work could find thousands of backers .... in Kansas most certainly.

Thanks Dave Loewenstein for expressing yourself.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 6 months ago

Does anybody know where I could get about 400 liters of urine? Doesn't have to be human. I need it to finish my Wee Wee Jesse Jackson Jr. art project?

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Thomas Bryce 1 year, 6 months ago

A spray painted stencil print is not what Dave Loewenstein is most noted for. Murals that he designed and collaborated on are all over the country. There are some in Lawrence. Dave has done alot of good with his work especially with projects geared toward low income and inner city kids. This print is not fully representative of his work.

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Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 6 months ago

“Reject Brownback” is a spray-painted stencil print...
Sounds like a sixth grade art project to me. The man is not an artist because he has nothing original to offer.

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lunacydetector 1 year, 6 months ago

could the cartoon be construed as a threat?

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observant 1 year, 6 months ago

Be interesting to see what this does to Blue Planets business. Bet it won't be a positive thing.

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imastinker 1 year, 6 months ago

Last time I remember a business stick their neck out politically it was the president of Chick Fil A. We all remember where that got the company.....

Commercial leases can and do have a lot of rules that dictate the behavior of the tenant. They can say whatever the two parties want. They are much different than a residential lease.

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Armstrong 1 year, 6 months ago

A case of arts and crap gone bad. Class move on the part of the restaurant

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msezdsit 1 year, 6 months ago

“I felt that this was meant to be mean-spirited and spiteful, so I let my conscience make the decision,” he said. “And I hope that people will understand that and try to divorce the political side from the actual situation.” very very very lame.

Yep, had nothing to do with art, just a brownback supporter who felt they had to exert their personal biases. Wonder if the the family member promoted this decision or if they were just exploited by Ready to deflect some of Ready's deserved criticism.

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classclown 1 year, 6 months ago

Regardless of why it was removed, the artist needs to stop being a baby about it.

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Thomas Bryce 1 year, 6 months ago

How does Liz Brownback feel about the Print? All I hear are people around her worrying this print might offend her. She is capable of making these decisions on her own, is she not? I am sure she is. Let her speak. If this print is offensive to her(since this IS what this is all about) Let her say so. Other wise, this is much ado about nothing.Give her credit for being a young woman with an intellect and the ability to form her own opinion. I am sure the print is not that big a deal to a young woman who loves her family and KNOWS what business her Dad is in.

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1 year, 6 months ago

Katara: "I guess if that's the best you've got..."

What more do you want? Fiddleback requested a "good example of lefties demanding that art that offends them be taken down" and I presented an example of "lefties" not only demanding that offensive art be taken down, but a) showing up with police to take it down, b) passing a resolution to de-fund the art school if it was replaced, and c) other liberals falling in line and expressing "moral dismay" and apologizing that an art student made fun of Harold Washington*.

Yes, the Chicago aldermen, the police, the churches, and the art school were in the wrong to demand that this artwork be taken down. I said as much and even gave props to the ACLU for saying as much. They are to be commended for their consistency and dedication to principle.

However, if you don't find that to be a "good example of lefties demanding that art that offends them be taken down," that's fine, all you need to do is present the data that shows the Chicago aldermen are big fans of Rush Limbaugh. If you can't, well, here in the grownups' sandbox, "nuh-uh" is seldom a convincing argument.

*Doubtless you've noticed the same churches lining up to express "moral dismay" at making fun of Sam. Well, it'll happen any minute now.

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biggunz 1 year, 6 months ago

Only in Lawrence on an LJW article would something this stupid generate so many comments.

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Thomas Bryce 1 year, 6 months ago

You can't buy publicity like this. Thanks to thin skinned people the artist now has more recognition for the work than he ever would have had. Dave Loewenstein:1 Sam Brownback supporters:0 The advantage goes to the artist, in this case.

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verity 1 year, 6 months ago

How many people knew about Loewenstein before this flap? How many people have heard about him now? Need I say more?

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oletimer 1 year, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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ljreader 1 year, 6 months ago

And another thing. I hope that's not Cadmium White pigment I'm looking at in the eyes, tears and teeth of this "portrait". Not green. Not. cool.

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ljreader 1 year, 6 months ago

I think Obama and Hillary should go on an apology tour. How dare someone create an image of Brownback. It might offend somebody- like his daughter. She might burn down the capitol building and kill some folks. Copy cats might burn down the whole dang country. We must immediately arrest the artist -send a dozen cops to do it, and make sure the footage is sent to television stations in all red states. Hasn't the last 4 years taught you people anything? Free speech isn't all it's cracked up to be. Someone might get mad. Not. cool.

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johnwoods 1 year, 6 months ago

I read from another source that the manager of the restaurant was the wife of the building's owner. So it doesn't look like the landlord was making the tenant do anything they didn't want.

It may be censorship, but there is nothing wrong a private business making this choice of not displaying a political message.

I dislike Brownback and all he stands for but...

After the Chick-Fil-A fiasco, when will businesses learn that politics and business don't mix well. If you want to alienate customers, use your business for political reasons.

1

beatrice 1 year, 6 months ago

I am all for more art in our daily lives. However, this isn't an art gallery or museum we are talking about, it is a restaurant. The owners have every right to remove any decor they choose, no questions asked. I can also sympathize with the rational. The owner has no obligation at all to not censor the art that goes on his walls. Geez.

The artist has every right to make the image, but he doesn't have the guarantee of displaying the work in a private business. Supporters of Brownback may find the work objectionable, which could harm business. Who needs that if you are trying to make a buck?

If the artist is that upset about being censored, why doesn't he demand that all of his pictures come down?

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JackMcKee 1 year, 6 months ago

Brownback sure is a sensitive wittle baby

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MarcoPogo 1 year, 6 months ago

More stories about art in Topeka!!!

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Liberal 1 year, 6 months ago

I still think this is funny...It now has turned into performance art....Kind of like my name "Liberal" I know it irritates some but never the less I am and remain a Liberal in the classic sense. This expression is perfectly acceptable, even though I disagree with it.

Let it hang...the kickstarter idea for a billboard is a good one.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 6 months ago

I actually like how Dave has evolved into pop art. Keep it up! I think you might get more sales in Ks though if you mocked Obama.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 6 months ago

I wonder how much taxpayer money this moron Loewenstein has received for his "art".

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bd 1 year, 6 months ago

It is not art , it is a political poster and a bad one at that!

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 6 months ago

If you can't take the heat, GETOUTOF THE KITCHEN!!! (Ya listenin' San??)

1

sci4all 1 year, 6 months ago

Oh c'mon. Do we really believe Brownback's office had nothing to do with this? The same folks who hounded a teenager for tweeting "heblowsalot"?

1

audvisartist 1 year, 6 months ago

Let's get a Kickstarter going to get a huge billboard of the painting placed right next to the restaurant.

5

Pepe 1 year, 6 months ago

Must be a slow news day if this non-issue makes the paper. Welcome to the LJworld where the front page article is that a restaurant (which isn't even in Lawrence) decided to remove a painting. Some hard-hitting journalism here.

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oldexbeat 1 year, 6 months ago

Handled equally bad as Brownback did that high school girl tweeting about him -- hard to handle stuff well when you have zero ability to try and understand other sides to an issue -- ie, in brownbackistan, if the Gov doesn't like something (think Kansas Art Council), it just goes away, no matter the cost.

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Haiku_Cuckoo 1 year, 6 months ago

I think the whole Lichtenstein-like cartoon thing has been way overdone over the years, so I probably wouldn't have displayed it based on that alone. I don't think the message is offensive though. It's just somebody sharing a political opinion.

1

laurennoel 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm sorry but, he's my cousin and I'm not at all offended. In fact I agree with it... Don't tell my Aunt please.

2

distant_voice 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm an independent and I have no particular fondness for Brownback, but the disparity between how liberals view their own freedom of expression and how they view others has always shocked me. This painting is as offensive as several of Brownback's actions, but had this painting been of Kathleen Sebelious, the left would have been outraged. It seems liberals are allowed to freely express their feelings, but are infuriated when anyone else does, which really makes them hypocrits to their own cause.

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JonasGrumby 1 year, 6 months ago

This is not censorship since it involves a private entity. In addition, it's not really good art. It looks like a paint-by-the-numbers piece.

1

OhnaLeeWhonVought 1 year, 6 months ago

Oh the poooor baby! If king Brownback's little girl is offended, then might I suggest she seek employment somewhere else. (hmmm that sounds familiar, where have I heard that before?)

1

jaywalker 1 year, 6 months ago

"Loewenstein said he questioned the owners’ motives because he does not know how Brownback’s daughter feels and has not personally spoken with her. He added that while he sympathizes with relatives of public figures, he also thinks they need to be prepared for criticism politicians may face."

Gee, I wonder how she feels. No empathetic ability, Mr. Loewenstein? And I'm certain his daughter has had to deal with plenty of the criticism thrown her father's way already, she certainly doesn't need to walk into work each day and see her father sweating in the fires of hell, which I'm fairly certain was the actual intent there.

And sorry, this ain't "censorship." People struggle with this almost as much as they do racism. Once one has ceded control of their work to a gallery, game's over. The owner gets to choose where and when to display, including not doing so altogether.

1

BABBOY 1 year, 6 months ago

BS .

This is not censorship.

Anyone who read any of my posts knows I am no Brownbacker. In fact, you give me the match and I would be tempted to light the flipping fire.

But, Mr. Lowenstein, censorship requires a government action. There is none here. Your beef is with the owner of the building. Tell the Blue Planet to move out of the building and find a place where they can show your artwork without someone dumb enough to employ a Brownback.

I like your painting but do not really like see the constitution or the law so gross misstated to say this is a first amendment issue because it is not. It is a best a property rights or contract dispute between Mr. Loewenstein and his contract with the Blue Planet and any property right issue (doubtful) involved therein....

0

jafs 1 year, 6 months ago

Based on what exactly?

The restaurant is renting space from the owner of the building, and is thus a tenant. Their restaurant is a private business, and I would agree that they have the right to decide what goes on the walls.

It's the landlord that made the decision, not the restaurant owner, to remove the artwork.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 6 months ago

Its a private business. The owner has the right to decide what art he wants on his walls.

2

jafs 1 year, 6 months ago

The interesting issue here to me is whether or not a landlord has the right to compel a tenant to take down some art that's been hung on the wall or not.

If it were a personal rental, I'd say no, unless there was a specific clause in the lease that gave that authority.

With commercial ones, I'm not sure - there may be differences.

Anybody know?

0

jonas_opines 1 year, 6 months ago

"Lowenstein is (hiding his pleasure at extra exposure behind) decrying censorship." fixed?

Either that or he's just a whiner.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 6 months ago

Actually, this has been a perfect win-win situation: the owner of the building gets to express his support for Liz Brownback as a valued employee, Lowenstein gets WAY more publicity for his art than he ever would have received otherwise, and Blue Planet gets to make it very clear to all that they support the artistic community (which they really do). On top of it all, there was no real censorship occurring because the art was plastered all over the place in newspapers and I'm sure that Dave can find another venue in Topeka for his art project--including the Brownback piece--and folks will flock to see it.

Seems to me that everyone has acted responsibly here: the owner of the building, Liz (by staying out of it), Dave, the cafe, and even the media. Let's recognize it for what it is: every once in a while our society works like it's supposed to!

3

JJE007 1 year, 6 months ago

This is perfectly lovely. This article is just right for our time and place. Everyone gets to vent their humours in this most political time of year. Let us continue to express the loving milk of our narrow minds.

1

Mike Gerhardt 1 year, 6 months ago

That painting has no place in a restaurant.

1

JackMcKee 1 year, 6 months ago

LOL. And you wonder why young intelligent kids are running away from Kansas.

0

ThePilgrim 1 year, 6 months ago

"Artist" is a stretch. He makes fun of Brownback, gets his pic in the paper. Big whoop.

3

Milton Bland 1 year, 6 months ago

Personally, I am waiting for Romney to get elected so I can again visit Milton's. I stopped going there as the Obama portrait made me throw up. Other than that, I liked their food and coffee. And in spite of their politics, I would eat there when visiting Lawrence. But having Dumbo hanging on the wall is too much for me to stomach. As for the debate, in the end Jim Lehrer had the best line of the night when he tried to stop Obama from going over his allotted time. He said, “Mr. President, your time is up.” Hopefully that goes for the picture as well.

1

Budgets_Smudgets 1 year, 6 months ago

The restaurant was wrong and Lowenstein is even more wrong.

Pick up the phone and talk to the people involved, Dave, before you pop off to a news reporter.

1

autie 1 year, 6 months ago

So if Brownback's kid is offended by that dumb picture I'm guessing she doesn't read the papers. Or much of anything. Hell, if that is going to make her cry I bet she doesn't leave the house. Jeez. The mean artist made fun of Daddy....get over it kids.

Besides, didn't Sam outlaw art?

2

msezdsit 1 year, 6 months ago

I actually stumbled across an 8.5x11 print of this artwork and it will hang in my house indefinitely. The excuses these people used to justify the removal are ridiculous. The painting is a great work and I don't find anything offensive about it. But lets take the publicity created by the owners mis-step and remember the rest of the art work. It is truly some of the best political artwork you will see anywhere . It is clever, wity, and very well done. Go check it out while you can.

1

commonsenseanyone 1 year, 6 months ago

Just paint one of Obama in the same setting and hang it right next to it. Fixed. Although, we did just see Obama go down in flames last night...

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toe 1 year, 6 months ago

They should move the painting down to Capitol Federal.

2

verity 1 year, 6 months ago

I agree with cowboy. IMHO, it's a stupid picture.

Where's all the defenders of freedom now? Private business, they can decorate any way they please.

Censorship? Just like removing comments from these boards is censorship.

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cowboy 1 year, 6 months ago

That painting blows as much as Brownback

2

1 year, 6 months ago

"Loewenstein is decrying the removal as censorship."

A little bit of martyrdom is good for the artist's soul, so Loewenstein should thank the owners for what he could probably turn into years of inspiration if he mixes it with arrogance, hate, and self-pity in the proper proportions.

Maybe he could kick off this new beginning with a self-portrait of himself crying while it's still fresh in the mirror - it will help to keep those creative juices flowing.

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PhilChiles 1 year, 6 months ago

This seems like a no-brainer, if you're a business owner. I'm not a Brownback fan but this is a win-win all around. Artists might complain when this kind of thing happens, but really, they need a little bit of it occasionally. Makes 'em feel edgy and dangerous, and gets people talking about them. And Brownback's daughter feels valued at work; the owner provided a job benefit at absolutely no cost!

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cheeseburger 1 year, 6 months ago

Had this been a portrait of Brownback, you liberals would be screaming bloody murder to have it taken down. But because it is done in a derogatory and demeaning manner, you're all for it.

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question4u 1 year, 6 months ago

The image has been in the Topeka Capital Journal and now the Lawrence Journal World, so Ready's reaction certainly gave the image a lot greater exposure. Why didn't he talk to the artist, explain why he was concerned, and ask him to remove it? There was no need for censorship, unless the artist proved to be unreasonable. Instead he bungled things and gave a large readership an opportunity to see an image that they would not otherwise have known existed – and he made himself look rather foolish in the process. Does he really not understand what censorship is? I certainly think that it would have been fair to request that the artist remove the work, and I think that the artist would have been wrong to refuse to do so under the circumstances. Nevertheless, when you use your power to remove an image that the artist was invited to display, there's no other word for it but censorship.

The image is actually more interesting as a pastiche of Roy Lichtenstein's tearful blondes than it is as political commentary. Besides, it's pure fantasy to think that Brownback would cry tears of remorse for sending Kansas to perdition. Haven't you been paying attention Dave?

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 6 months ago

In 1988, Chicago aldermen and police seized a painting of ex-mayor Harold Washington that they thought was offensive. You can't please everyone. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/13/us/chicago-aldermen-and-police-seize-portrait-that-blacks-deem-offensive.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

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Liberal 1 year, 6 months ago

I am a fan of Brownback, but the painting is funny...Let it hang. There is nothing to fear but the fear of offending someone.

Chill it is just a drawing, it is not like it is an image of a religious icon that shall not be named in fear of creating a riot.

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fantastic_hollaa 1 year, 6 months ago

I saw recently that Quinton's plastered over the mural he did there. What gives?

I really liked that piece

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optimist 1 year, 6 months ago

"Loewenstein...added that while he sympathizes with relatives of public figures, he also thinks they need to be prepared for criticism politicians may face." And if you create something like this you too should be prepared for criticism of yourself and your talent. Seems fair to me.

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witchfindergeneral 1 year, 6 months ago

Brownback is bad, but, to be fair, that painting kinda is too.

But what do Brownback's daughter and the (likely connected) restaurant owners expect? Her father is a politician, a public figure, the executive of a state, etc.--look, some people don't like him (incredibly /s), and they're going to make fun of him. Get used to it, invest in some skin thickening agent (I know a guy, give me a call).

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