Tag: public art

Dell Upton follows up on the theme of his current book, What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (Yale University Press) by asking a team of individuals critically engaged with public art, memory, and the nation about the recent debates around Confederate monuments and efforts to recognize histories of lynching.

A monument leads an unhappy life. The best it can hope for is to molder quietly under a mantle of pigeon droppings, for when the people or events it celebrates attract a critical eye, its travails begin. Because a monument holds up its subject to memory, even adulation, it is likely to suffer for the failings of the animate.

In the context of the recent Confederate memorial debates, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, directly challenges the heroic narrative of the Confederacy as an honorable struggle and the idea that slavery was a benevolent institution.

In times of economic and environmental crisis, illustrators for the popular press often produced images of charity that worked alongside text to explain philanthropic processes and to demonstrate the effectiveness of various types of food aid. In addition to this instructional function, depictions of food aid reinforced social boundaries between the recipients of charity, viewers, and those with the ability to offer their time and resources. As a force for difference, these images utilize food and philanthropy as legible and significant markers of class.