Art bashing in San Francisco


Geraldine Sealey
June 1, 2004 7:31PM (UTC)

A woman fearful of doing her job, who has been threatened, spat upon and punched for exercising a right that is legally hers. Sounds more like life at an abortion clinic in Nebraska, but this describes what's happening at an art gallery in the same San Francisco neighborhood where the beat poets used to hang out. This is from the S.F. Chronicle's piece about the gallery owner who showed a painting inspired by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and has since shut the place down out of fear and intimidation.

"The furor began on May 16 when Colwell, an East Bay artist, made an addition to his monthlong showing at Haigh's gallery on Powell Street. Angered by the pictures he saw of Iraqi prisoners being abused, he created a black and white painting depicting three hooded and naked men undergoing electric shock torture by American soldiers. Colwell, who took down his paintings Saturday, declined to comment."

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"Two days after the painting went up, Haigh arrived at her gallery to find broken glass, eggs and trash strewn outside her storefront. Haigh also began receiving the first of about 200 angry voicemails, e-mails and death threats. A week ago, a man walked into the gallery and spit in Haigh's face. On Tuesday, Haigh decided to temporarily close the gallery and began to consider giving up on her dream of owning an art gallery. Just two days later, another man knocked on the door of the gallery and then punched Haigh in the face, knocking her out, breaking her nose and causing a concussion."

"It's more than Haigh ever imagined. She opened the studio 1 1/2 years ago, hoping to display the works of important and possibly controversial modern artists. 'I enjoyed listening to people's different opinions on what they saw,' said Haigh, a mother of two. 'That was part of the joy of having a gallery.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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