Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Department of Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

After displaying a painting of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, a San Francisco gallery owner received a black eye and a bloodied brow from an unknown assailant who objected to the art.

Two days after the painting went up in the gallery front window, someone threw eggs and dumped trash on the doorstep. Lori Haigh, the gallery's owner, said she didn't think to connect it to the black-and-white interpretation of the events in Baghdad until people started leaving nasty messages and threats on her business answering machine.

"I think you need to get your gallery out of this neighborhood before you get hurt," one caller said.

Even after she removed the painting from the window, the criticism continued thanks to news coverage about the gallery's troubles. The answering machine recorded new calls from people accusing her of being a coward for taking the picture down. Last weekend, a man walked into the gallery, pretended to scrutinize the art work for a moment, then marched up to Haigh's desk and spat directly in her face.

On Thursday, someone knocked on the door of the gallery, then punched Haigh in the face when she stepped outside.

Among the expressions of support Haigh has received since shuttering the gallery, her favorite is an e-mail whose writer said, "I'm sure that a few and dangerous minds don't understand that they have only mimicked the same perversity this painting had expressed."


If you'd like to read the whole story, published on Saturday by AP, click here.