Art instructor: I feel I’ve done nothing wrong
Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 7:48 pm
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
The instructor of an art history course at the University of Tennessee at Martin explained the origin of a controversial exhibit featuring a shredded American flag, a shredded Bible, a copy of the U.S. Constitution with a cut in its center and a live rat in with the shredded Bible.
The exhibit — labeled a Contemporary Art Exhibit — was posted in the Fine Arts Building on Nov. 10 and removed Thursday.
Dr. Carol Eckert said the exhibit originated in her Art History 401 course in which there are 20 students. She said the class has been studying contemporary art, “dealing with contemporary issues.”
“Many artists today deal with contemporary issues, things like performance pieces and video,” she said. “We had all different kinds of pieces in the show. The assignment was to explore contemporary art. They had to work on one collaboration and they had to do an individual piece.”
She said she knew two of her students have strong feelings about “certain contemporary issues.”
“They were going to do a display about that, yes,” she said.
She identified the two students as Tiffany Hurt of Martin and John Mistric of Dyer. Ms. Hurt is a junior majoring in history; Mistric is a senior majoring in fine and performing arts.
“Tiffany’s issue was that she opposed the war in Iraq. Hers was the one with the shredded flag. John was concerned about organized religion,” Ms. Eckert said. “It isn’t up any more. It was (taken down) because it was at the end of the run. It was just a short in-between senior exhibit.”
Ms. Eckert explained her position on allowing the exhibit. As an American, she said, she supports freedom of speech. “There are a lot of people who speak out in support of the war and in support of organized religion. They are allowed to speak. I allow them to speak.”
Did Ms. Eckert commit a colossal blunder by allowing the exhibit? “I think you’re putting words in my mouth,” she said. “I don’t think it was a blunder to support their freedom of speech. … I feel I’ve done nothing wrong.”