The University of Alaska at Anchorage is displaying a painting of a nude Chris Evans, the actor who stars as Marvel’s Captain America, holding aloft the severed head of President Donald Trump, as a young ’60s-era Hillary Clinton clings to his leg.
Assistant professor Thomas Chung created the painting, KTTU-TV reported, and he says that he “spent days just weeping” after Trump was elected president. The assistant professor describes himself as a social artist who normally doesn’t deal in politics, but Trump’s election “bled into that.”
Originally, he was hesitant to submit the painting for a faculty art show, fearing that it would disturb some students. He decided to push forward regardless, hoping it would generate conversation:
I was really torn about putting this piece up a faculty show, because I would never talk about my own political beliefs to my students. I would never push that upon them and make them feel uncomfortable, and so I wondered to myself if putting up this painting was in a way doing that. But I realized that I feel very strongly about this, and I think even students that might be pro-Trump supporters could benefit from having a conversation with me about why I feel this way — why I painted this.
Former UAA professor Paul R Berger, who identifies himself as a conservative, took to Facebook and wrote that he wasn’t sure “how I want to respond to this.”
“First thing that comes to mind is freedom of expression, fair enough (although, I might wager the severed head of our former president might illicit a different response from the administration of UAA and their student body),” he wrote. “The second is public funding of our university system.”
“Had the roles been reversed, and it was Obama’s head hanging there, I think the outrage would be fantastic,” Berger told KTUU. “As a free speech advocate, everyone has a right to express their opinion the way they want to express them. But as a parent and a citizen, there’s a discussion. In a university setting, what’s appropriate?”
Steven Godfrey, chairman of UAA’s Fine Arts Department, thinks it’s fine.
“I guess the people are upset about the work that’s being shown,” he said. “If they were taking a class at the university and made art that was considered controversial, no matter what their political or religious bent is, we would do our best to protect them and protect their rights to make that kind of work in the institution, whether it would be a student or faculty.”
The painting will hang in the gallery through Thursday.