Onward We March
Artist: Robin Harris
Date of Action: March, 2015
Location: Trumbull Library
Confronting Bodies: City government official, First Selectman Tim Herbst
Description of Artwork: The painting shows Mother Teresa alongside feminist icons like Gloria Steinem and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
The Incident: The painting was ordered taken down by a city government official, First Selectman Tim Herbst. But even though the complaints the library received concered seeing the famous Catholic nun alongside Sanger, Herbst claimed that the town received a formal letter contending that the painting infringes copyright in using Mother Teresa’s image. Library Director Susan Horton told the Trumbull Times that there was “no proof that the copyright is valid,” and that members of the library board disagreed with the decision to remove the painting. But it was removed nonetheless. If including the image of a public figure in a painting were a copyright violation, it would be impossible to create a critical image of a politician, or even an admiring portrait of a historical figure like Mother Teresa.
Last week Herbst said to the Connecticut Post. ”As soon as I get an agreement, which is standard operating procedure for other town buildings, it goes back up,” Friday March 6th the painting was once again exhibited.
The painting was vandalised on March 11th, during a Library Board of Trustees meeting. The owner of the painting, Richard Resnick, decided not to press charges for the damage; "I am sorry for the person who felt so compelled and will not press charges for property destruction. I believe that those who object have misunderstood the important message that the painting represents." Resnick stated in Trumbull Times.
As a comment, Herbst stated that the vandalism was what he had been afraid would happen to the controversial piece and explained that it was the reason why he wanted an indemnity agreement in place and insurance on the collection.
Results of Incident: The painting was removed and reexhibited. But it’s not clear that the controversy is over. Town lawyer Robert Nicola is apparently advising the town to take down all of the paintings in the collection, pending some kind of arrangement between the town and Richard Resnick, the owner of the paintings.