Turkish artist ex-patriate creates #blacklivesmatter ally work, black students protest.

OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) An audience member responds to the work of Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa. Tanyosacar displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.
OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) An audience member responds to the work of Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa. Tanyosacar displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.

Serhat Tanyolacar’s art has put him in fear for his life.  He traveled to his native Turkey earlier this year, donned a traditional kaftan printed with the likenesses of former Turkish leaders, and protested tyranny. In Turkey, he could have been imprisoned. “I was afraid of that,” he said, “for the impact it would have on my family,” which includes a ten-year-old son with autism. Tanyolacar was ready to renounce his Turkish citizenship, but the openness with which the Turkish audience received his work, caused him to reconsider, he said at an April 12 speaking engagement in Okoboji, Iowa.

OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.
OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.

The racial tensions of 2014, including the deaths of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice, and John Crawford, gave life to the movement known as #BlackLivesMatter. While across the nation, protests have been multiracial, when Tanyolacar installed his work in a public area of the public University of Iowa, students cowered. Doctoral candidate in racial and gender studies, Kayla Wheeler, said Tanyolacar was a “white-passing POC,”   who had no business as a black ally.

OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.
OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa displays his sculpture in starched fabric and tar screenprint which set off a 2014 firestorm at the university, resulting in the administration demanding he remove the public art installation. Tanyolacar, the Grant Wood fellow in printmaking, created the installation to show solidarity with black students and families of black citizens killed by police officers. Two students complained to administration that they were haunted by the image of a KKK robe screenprinted with news articles about mid-20th century lynchings, arsons and murders perpetuated by racists. Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.

Tanyolacar said his intent was to be a #blacklivesmatter ally. Having experienced discrimination and marginalization that caused him to leave Turkey at age 24, he felt an affinity for American students he teaches at the University.

OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa, speaks to two audience members after a speaking engagement. Tanylocar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.
OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) Serhat Tanyolacar, professor of art and art history at the University of Iowa, speaks to two audience members after a speaking engagement. Tanylocar, a native of Turkey, spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.

Tanyolocar said the order for removal of the public art installation is a sign of free speech and expression eroding. The university president ordered him to remove the piece because students found it disturbing and offensive.

“One choice we have,” Tanyolocar said, “is to only do art that does not offend anyone.”

The other choice, he added, “is to keep dialogue open.” Tanyolocar said the university administration opened a time of dialogue the next day. No one from the administration attended. Some students attended, and a couple of faculty members.

Removing the installation was not enough for the students who said they were frightened into nightmares from the piece of printed fabric. They called for his immediate dismissal, for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to not only remove their Tweets in support of the artist and his work, but to formally retract the Tweet, and for sanctions against the person in the College who created the posts.

OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015)  The audience responds to a talk by Serhat Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, who spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.
OKOBOJI, Iowa USA (April 12, 2015) The audience responds to a talk by Serhat Tanyolacar, a native of Turkey, who spoke to the Iowa Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship April 12, 2015.

“One of the mandates of a college professor is to teach creative, rational thought to the next generation of world-changers,” Tanyolocar said. “This university determined that impact — the fact that students felt afraid — trumped freedom of speech, freedom of artistic expression. It is difficult to know what an art and art history teacher should model and teach students of art in our age.”

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AmyPeterson

New Media Journalist, writing plays under the pen name Ash Sanborn.

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