Sunday, April 03, 2011

The curious case of Gov. LePage and the labor mural

For the most part I try really hard to keep politics out of this blog, and being a very proud independent able to discern the usual double standards of both the vast left wing nuttery and the even vaster right wing conspiracy, I think that I do a pretty good job of that task.

Except when politics cross over into art.

The above image is a 36-foot-long mural depicting Maine's labor history. The mural used to hang in the lobby of that state's Department of Labor.

Last weekend, Maine Governor Paul LePage ordered the mural removed from the Labor building. According to LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt, the administration felt that the mural depicted "one-sided decor" not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals.

"The message from state agencies needs to be balanced," said Demeritt, adding that the mural had sparked complaints from "some business owners" who complained that it was hostile to business.

The mural (which apparently will be relocated to the Portland City Hall) was created in 2008 by Maine artist Judy Taylor via a $60,000 Maine Arts Commission grant. There are excellent details of the mural in the artists' website here.

Politicians (and locally some museum executives) just don't seem to learn the lesson that every time they try to mix politics with art censorship, they lose.

And this ability to make these boneheaded decisions is not just restricted to local government, as both the Clinton and Bush administration found out when they both covered up the 1934 WPA murals on the 5th floor of the Ariel Rios building here in Washington, DC.

The Taliban tears down and destroys art; the brutal Castro dictatorship censors art and punishes artists; the ChiCom government censors art; the nut with the Elvis hairdo in North Korea decides what art is and artists there better toe his Soviet-realism line... What do all of these regimes have in common? They are all dictators.

But in our society, anytime that a politician enters into this arena, he or she is bound to lose. We don't suffer dictator-like behavior around here.

And hopefully Maine's governor and self appointed chief interior decorator now realizes that not only did he make a stupid (and needless) decision here, but also managed to paint himself (pun intended) in a really negative light to all of us, who will never accept art censorship, no matter from which nutty wing of the right or left it comes.

Next Saturday