I didn’t really cover Maine’s Tea Party Governor’s decision to remove the labor history mural from the state’s Department of Labor, but the SF Bay Guardian points out that it’s far from the first act of history-art censorship. Progressive politics are not indefinitely sustainable, and so I assume that someday the Lincoln Brigade exhibit at Embarcadero Square in SF will face a similar challenge (even though former Secretary of State George Shultz himself attended the opening).
Probably one of the more ridiculous moments came in San Francisco during the 1950s. In the Rincon Center near the waterfront are a number of murals inside. One of them depicts four canons pointing at a monster or something with a swastika on it, each canon containing the logo of one of the four major Allied nations. There was an effort to have the Soviet cannon painted over on the basis that Stalin’s regime was worse than the Nazis (an early volley in the body count debate) and therefor their participation in the war should not be “celebrated.” Never mind that the Soviets took a burden which probably outweighed all of the other nations combined, and never mind that they were in fact allies during that war, however uneasy the alliance may have been.
Another silly censorship act was at Brigham University where Joseph Smith’s portrait was removed and replaced with a beardless depiction of their prophet. Students were not allowed to grow beards while attending, so he was setting a bad example.
During the McCarthy Era there was actually a proposal to ban abstract art as part of the communist conspiracy – the irony there being that communist art, or “socialist realism” has always been straight-jacketed, and despite the radical impulses behind art movements like surrealism and dada, they were rejected by the Soviet authorities as decadent and of course bourgeois. I’ll try to track down some of the quotations from pro-realism dogmatists of both cultures later.