A Sacramento artist is fuming after his art, a large Swastika painted like an American flag, was removed from the ArtStreet installation, a temporary art extravaganza that opened Friday.
“Today, I was told that ArtStreet was ‘not allowing’ my piece. I was officially given the boot, and kicked out of ArtStreet – and rudely at that,” Heston Hurley wrote on Facebook after his piece was removed from the lineup of installations created by more than 100 artists. Hurley posted a picture of the work along with his comments.
ArtStreet is a multidisciplinary exhibit spearheaded by the crew behind last year’s Art Hotel, which drew thousands of people to a crumbling downtown hotel that was turned into a giant art gallery while awaiting demolition. This year’s incarnation is housed in a cavernous warehouse at 300 First Ave. near the new Mill at Broadway development.
More than 300 artists – local and international – submitted proposals on the “street” theme to participate in the curated collection of works. A team of 14 people screened the proposed art and picked the works that best fit, said Scott Eggert , a spokesman for the event and arts collective behind it M5ARTS.
The piece Hurley assembled was not what he submitted, Eggert said.
Hurley’s piece is a series of low wooden block benches painted with red and white stripes and a blue top. When Hurley assembled the benches in the configuration of a Swastika Friday afternoon, hours before the event was set to begin, trouble erupted.
A women involved with the event kicked his piece in anger and people where generally disrespectful of his work, Hurley said. “Not proud of the way I verbally responded,” Hurely wrote on Facebook in a post which tagged a number of Sacramento artists.
Eggert said Hurely’s response was belligerent and disrespectful.
“He showed up with something that was not what he submitted. He wanted to make a different statement. It wasn’t something that he ran by our curatorial team,” Eggert said.
It doesn't belong to the Nazis!! Let's take it back.
Sacramento artist Heston Hurley, on the Swastika.
Hurley concedes that point, but was eager to defend his art.
He said he was reacting to actions by new President Donald Trump, and in particular the president’s executive order directing the government to resume work on the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline is opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux, who have been at the center of massive protests.
“ I worked for five days straight, with only a few hours sleep to make this new piece,” Hurley said on Facebook. “I am a proud member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, People of the Standing Rock, members of the Iroquois confederacy, and People of the Longhouse.”
Hurley, who recently graduated from Sacramento State after studying interior architecture, said his piece isn’t about Trump, specifically. “This is a piece about the Earth and our responsibility to the generations to come,” Hurley said. “It’s a statement about more than politics. What does national pride mean? Where are we headed, and where have we been? The Swastika dates back 11,000 years and is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol by many people on this planet.”
“It doesn't belong to the Nazis!! Let's take it back,” he said of the Swastika.
The online discussion on whether Hurley should have been allowed to display his art was fast and furious. Many people jumped to Hurley’s defense with other taking a more measured response. Eggert said politics wasn’t behind the decision not to allow it. There are a number of exhibits that are political in nature.
Even as he fumed about being excluded, Hurley said there is lots to see at ArtStreet, which runs through Feb. 25.
“I am in no way, shape, or form, saying to boycott this event,” Hurley writes. “There are amazing pieces, by amazing artists, at this location, and everyone should go and support them.”
What: The folks behind last year’s multi-artist temporary installation “Art Hotel” are back with a bigger and longer multidisciplinary exhibit “ArtStreet”
When: Feb. 3 through Feb. 25 (open at 11 a.m. daily )
Where: 300 First Avenue, Sacramento Ca.
Cost: Free (reservations optional)