Visual Arts

Artist turns American flag into KKK hood. Racism is not patriotism, she says.

Artist Billie Grace Lynn’s American Mask exhibit turns American flags into Ku Klux Klan hoods, inspired by the deadly protests in Charlottesville in August. Lynn’s pieces will be a part of the University of Miami’s 2017 Faculty Exhibition Oct. 23-Nov. 12 at University of Miami Gallery inside the Wynwood Building.
Artist Billie Grace Lynn’s American Mask exhibit turns American flags into Ku Klux Klan hoods, inspired by the deadly protests in Charlottesville in August. Lynn’s pieces will be a part of the University of Miami’s 2017 Faculty Exhibition Oct. 23-Nov. 12 at University of Miami Gallery inside the Wynwood Building. University of Miami Gallery

The University of Miami faculty art show isn’t open yet and already people are talking about one of the exhibits.

“American Mask,” a work by Billie Grace Lynn, a UM associate professor of sculpture, will include American flags fashioned into Ku Klux Klan hoods.

On Tuesday, staff at the University of Miami Art Gallery inside the Wynwood Building began installing some of the pieces, including “American Mask.”

Lynn was thinking about the white supremacist march through the University of Viriginia in Charlottesville in August. The rally turned violent and led to three deaths and 35 injured.

President Donald Trump came under fire for saying there were “very fine people’’ among those who marched in the white supremacist rally.

Lynn “was inspired by the need to speak truth to power,” she said.

Enter “American Mask.”

“My sculpture … is a work suggesting that bigotry and racism are hiding behind our American flag. By using the shape of KKK hoods made from the American flags, I point to our sad history of intolerance and violence and hope that the work acts to awaken citizens to the danger of confusing bigotry with patriotism,” Lynn said in an email to the Miami Herald.

President Trump during a joint press conference Tuesday with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the NFL should not allow players to kneel, adding he was "ashamed" of the protests.

Miami New Times, which is housed in the Wynwood Building, reported Tuesday that as soon as the “American Mask” flags appeared in the gallery window, arguments began on social media, with comments ranging from “disgusting” to “patriotic.”

Gallery director Milly Cardoso said the flap may be premature.

“We’re installing the show now; it’s not even completely done. It doesn’t open until next week,” she said. The overall exhibit, which will feature the work of full and part-time UM faculty and include sculptures, paintings, ceramics and photography, carries no theme, Cardoso said.

“Her particular piece has a statement,” Cardoso said of Lynn’s “American Mask.”

Lynn flag
“American Empire,” a Klan hood made out of an American flag, will be a part of artist Billie Grace Lynn’s University of Miami Faculty Exhibit, “American Mask.” Billie Grace Lynn

The UM’s Department of Art and History said on its webpage: “The Department of Art and Art History offers a wide range of media for the students to study and has been hiring faculty with the specific goal of creating a very diverse range of approaches to both the handling of materials and philosophies towards art-making; this faculty exhibition of full time and part-time faculty will show that range of approaches.”

Lynn, raised in Louisiana, studied philosophy and religion as an undergraduate at Tulane University in New Orleans. She earned a master’s of fine arts in sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute.

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Her previous works included a dollhouse modeled after the Abu Ghraib prison; a silver wheelchair outfitted with a Homeland Security insignia she rolled around the Capitol Mall; and a Mad Cow Motorcycle Project made of cow bones that ran on waste vegetable oil from restaurants. Lynn rode the skeletal motorcycle around Miami to showcase the environmental impact of factory farming and food choices.

“I strive to make pieces in which the viewer interface is both the form and function of the piece,” Lynn writes on her website. “I want people to remember themselves, in much the same way that babies discover their fingers. When my work is successful, the piece is completed by the viewer-participant and she/he continues her/his journey more aware and delighted in being a body.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

If you go

What: 2017 University of Miami Faculty Exhibition

When: Oct. 23-Nov. 12. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and hours may change

Where: University of Miami Art Gallery inside the Wynwood Building, 2750 NW Third Ave., Suite 4, Miami.

Information: www.as.miami.edu/art and 305-284-3161

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