An artist’s billboard in downtown Kansas City has been removed after creating controversy. A. Bitterman‘s The Scout depicted a gunman taking aim at an iconic local statue of a Sioux Indian on horseback. Coordinator Moses Brings Plenty of the Kansas City Indian Center launched accusations of racism. Others claimed that the image did not present the Kansas City community in the best light.
The artist has defended himself, pointing out that the intention was never to promote violence toward the Native American community, but rather to challenge deeply ingrained cultural images and icons of Indians. He points out in his artist’s statement: “The ‘Indian’ in question is but a hollow piece of metal, a sculpture that carries a nostalgic version of the Indian we want to remember, rather than the Indian we destroyed.” In a follow-up statement, Bitterman goes on to explain that the source material is “a sculpture, created by and for white culture, and it carries a historical narrative of what white people at the turn of the 20th century wanted the indian to be. The artist on the scaffolding is confronting that narrative.”
Bitterman seems to have good intentions of creating a dialogue surrounding the history of white men depicting Native Americans in very generalized and problematic ways. However, Bitterman goes a step too far when he calls Moses Brings Plenty “a defender of colonialism.” Doesn’t that make A. Bitterman another white man who dictates how a minority culture should/should not be depicted? Bitterman certainly lives up to his name when he makes statements like this: “If the artist and his work are to be deemed racist without the slightest effort to engage the work, then his accusers are nothing more than demagogues who believe that people are too stupid to understand the image any other way.” Perhaps he should stick to expressing himself through images.
In your opinion, which is more racist?: Bitterman’s The Scout or the original sculpture The Scout from 1910? Perhaps both? Or neither?