Local artist sparks controversy with painting

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven based artist Gordon Skinner is the man behind a series titled “Urban Totems.” The four unique pieces were designed to engage people in the inner city in coming together and choosing basketball over trouble. The series was to be featured at this weekend’s Citywide Open Studio Festival.

“The idea is to invite different neighborhoods around New Haven to host an exhibition that is unjuried and uncensored,” said Sarah Frtitchey, the Gallery Director at Artspace New Haven.

All four of the pieces were to be displayed outside of the Goffe Street Armory. After receiving multiple complaints about one of them, the Parks and Recreation Department asked Skinner to have it moved. The artwork depicts a pig wearing a police cap and now hangs at Artspace on Orange Street.

“It is a bit disappointing that it’s not there and it’s no on the totem as it was supposed to be because there was supposed to be two free standing pieces,” said Skinner.

Originally the piece, titled Cops, was placed on the left side of the Armory, the same street as the Whalley Avenue Jail.

“I would describe it as an iconic figure, you know, highly identifiable,” said Skinner.

Parks and Rec said they received complaints from a correctional officer at the jail as well as an area cop.Skinner says the artwork isn’t a symbol of disrespect but rather a representation of what is happening in society.

“It’s bigger than me. It’s just my way of responding to the tragic events that have happened recently,” said Skinner.

While no longer in its intended location Skinner says he’s happy the piece has people talking. Artspace has scheduled a community forum about the artwork and the controversy surrounding freedom of expression for Thursday, October 20 from 4:30 to 6:30.

“It’s really doing its part in starting a dialogue for the community that I’m a part of. So, it’s already made me proud,” said Skinner.

News 8 reached out to the Parks and Recreation Department for comment but they did not return our calls.

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