Recently, the work of artist Byron Taylor has caused quite a bit controversy in conservative Little Rock, Arkansas; His piece entitled Legacy II was removed from The Arkansas League of Artists’ Spring Show at The Cox Center due to its graphic nature. The piece, according to Taylor’s website is a statement on the “endless persecution of Planned Parenthood and local efforts to further legislate abortion and women’s health”. Byron Taylor received a call on April 2nd, after Legacy II was selected to be displayed in the Spring Show; Sharon Franke, Secretary of the Arkansas League of Artists and Chairman of the ALA Spring Show, felt the painting was “offensive” and asked that Taylor pick it up later that day. Instead, Byron Taylor met with Sharon Franke, ALA Board President Ed Rhodes and ALA Board Member Eddie Smith to defend his work and shared details of their meeting over social media:
“Ms. Franke refused to change her position, insisting that the painting is violent and a piece like that had no business in this venue [The Cox Center], especially since abortion is legal. I tried to explain that, if certain political entities had their way, it could be illegal in short order. She refused to budge and even accused me of trying to damage the ALA. I responded that it wasn’t my intention- I just wanted to hang a piece of my art, of which I am proud. That she was letting her personal bias get in the way of her duties as show chairman. I then asked her if we needed to get lawyers involved, as I had two prominent ones backing me up. She started packing to leave and at this point, Ed [Rhodes] removed his piece from the wall and left. Sharon and I stayed, as she accused me of trying to damage the ALA and that it was just a stunt to get exposure. I assured her that the only exposure I was after was to show my painting in a show of a group which I had membership. Then she offered to refund my entry fee, or for me to bring in a different piece… She said, “I’d like you to take the piece down.”, and claimed family responsibilities and left.”.
Mr. Taylor refused to remove his piece that evening and instructed Ed Rhodes to return his own to the gallery, as well. At 11:00 AM the following morning, Sharon Franke called Taylor to apologize and made no further attempt to remove the piece; Although, according to Byron Taylor, he and Franke “agreed to disagree” regarding his motives behind hanging the piece.
This is not the first instance in which Taylor’s work has been censored by the Arkansas League of Artists;
This repeated censorship only speaks to his talent. Another piece in the Legacy series entitled Legacy I was inspired by the overwhelming amount of gun violence in America. On Taylor’s site, he stated:
“This is what keeps me awake at night, reflecting on the world we’re leaving our children. As of January 27th, 2016, when the Gun Control piece was finished we’d had 847 gun deaths since the first of the year.”
An earlier series created by the artist, Deer Hannah, deals with love, loss and transience and depicts a woman gazing at various animal skulls. In the final painting of the series, But Only For Now, the woman contently lies cradling a human skull.
Byron Taylor is currently working on more paintings for his Legacy series and intends to delve into additional heated topics such as income inequality, pollution and species extinction.
In the future, Byron Taylor plans to make prints of the controversial painting Legacy II available on his website due to high demand for the piece following his struggle to have it rightfully displayed.
You can learn more about Byron Taylor and his work on his website www.byrontaylor.com . Show Sharon Franke and others like her that censorship in the art community is unacceptable by following Byron on Twitter @btsculptor
All images used in this article are copyright of Byron Taylor.
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