A painting featuring prominent female activists has been removed from the Trumbull Public Library by the town’s First Selectman Tim Herbst after a local pastor raised a concern about using Mother Teresa’s image in a painting alongside Margaret Sanger, which some see as controversial.
Jane Resnick, who owns the painting, said on WNPR's Colin McEnroe Show that Herbst cited copyright infringement as the reason for removing the painting, although she said there's no evidence yet of such infringement.
"This isn't an incident in isolation," said Howard Sherman, Director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama in New York City. "I think that we have to remember that there was also an incident of artistic censorship in Trumbull, Connecticut now almost a year-and-a-half ago when the high school attempted to shut down a production of the school edition of 'Rent' because it had adult themes."
Despite the issues raised, Sherman said, “The show went on and there was no complaint.”
Sherman said that while Herbst thinks he is “protecting the town” from any claims that might arise from the use of the art, “If the town is not immediately making it possible for the Resnicks to indemnify the town, and if indeed they’re committed to doing so, then this proves there is something else at stake here.”
Sherman pointed out that the First Selectman published the painting on the town website after removing it from the library. “Even as they’re claiming the town would be at risk for displaying it, the town is displaying it,” he said.
Resnick believes the purpose of the painting is to celebrate the contributions these women made rather than to make a political or religious statement. "If we allow a politician to inject religion into his actions, we're giving up one of our most important protections," she said.
Kelsie Bissell is an intern at WNPR.