San Francisco gallery owner assaulted because of painting

Former San Francisco art gallery owner Lori Haigh got a bitter lesson in the mentality of some extreme right wingers in this country today. The experience resulted in Haigh closing her gallery.

AP reported that on May 16, she put a painting in her front window that triggered the episode. The work by Guy Colwell was titled “Abuse.” The subject was the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Two grinning U.S. soldiers are shown in the foreground of the painting—a man and a woman. The man holds a cattle prod while the woman, with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, holds electrical wires. The wires are attached to the fingers of three naked male Iraqis standing on cinder blocks.

The prisoners are hooded. In the background, two other U.S. soldiers in sunglasses lead a shackled and blindfolded woman into the room.

Two days after Haigh put the painting in the window, “someone threw eggs and dumped trash on the doorstep,” according to AP. Haigh said “people started leaving nasty messages and threats on [her] business answering machine.” She said she got “about 200 angry voicemails, e-mails and death threats.”

She removed the painting from the window, but the bullying did not stop. One day, a person walked into the gallery and spit in her face.

On May 27, Haigh said, someone “knocked on the door of the gallery, then punched [Haigh] in the face, knocking [her] out, breaking [her] nose, and causing a concussion.” Two days later, she still displayed a black right eye, a purplish cheek, a bandage over her nose, and another on her right eyebrow.

The punishment was too much. Haigh closed her gallery. A sign on the front of the building says, “The Capobianco Gallery is closed.” “This isn’t art-politics central here at all,” Haigh said. “I’m not here to make a stand. I never set out to be a crusader or a political activist.”

Support came on May 29 when artists, poets and other First Amendment defenders rallied to back Haigh, her gallery, Colwell, and free expression.

“In effect,” said poet Jack Hirschman, “the attackers, instead of writing ‘Jew’ on the window, wrote ‘Artist’ on the window. The attack was really something out of the Brown Shirts.” Hirschman said more than 100 people attended the rally.

“This is all too scary for me,” Haigh told the San Franciso Chronicle. The paper said she was “visibly moved by the show of support” and is “weighing her options.”

“The enemy cannot be triumphant in this kind of situation,” Hirschman said. “The gallery has to open again.”

Source: The Progressive

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