Artwork with racial slur raises eyebrows at McNeese State University

Artwork with racial slur raises eyebrows at McNeese State University

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Art is a great tool for self-expression, and at McNeese State University, art is celebrated at the Shearman Fine Arts Center, but one piece hanging in the halls is making some people do a double take.

This year marks the 30th anniversary for McNeese's Works on Paper Exhibition, where a guest juror selects works from across the country for a gallery presentation.This year, Gia Hamilton of the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans selected 76 works.

One of those pieces raised a few eyebrows. One McNeese student even reached out to KPLC asking "should this be allowed?"

"In a way, I was addressing the level of aversive or subtle racism," explained artist Demario Dotson, "I want to talk about how they mask racism in a different way."

The 23-year-old artist says the strong language in his art is meant to catch the audience off guard.

"Basically, creating a space for these necessary conversations about racism and discrimination," said Dotson.

This particular work in question was hanging in the first-floor hall of the gallery, but has been moved to the second floor. Before you walk up the steps, signage explains the artworks on display "may not be suitable for all audiences."

President of McNeese Philip Williams said in a statement: "Mr. Dotson is a talented young African-American artist and this print was selected for inclusion in this year's Works on Paper Exhibition by a widely respected artist and curator, Ms. Gia Hamilton. While I personally disagree with the use of derogatory language in the piece on exhibit, and it is not reflective of McNeese State University, we respect Mr. Dotson's protected right to produce his art and Ms. Hamilton's decision to include his work in the exhibit."

Dotson said he knows his art makes some people uncomfortable, but that's the point.

"I embrace that discomfort in my work with the imagery and text, to get you to think about what's going on," he said, "forcing you to have these conversations."

People may question the profanity, even the meaning behind the art - but Dotson said at least they are talking about it.

The Works on Paper Exhibition will be on display at Shearman Fine Arts Center until May 12.

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