Controversial artwork on display at ArtFields in Lake City

Controversial artwork on display at ArtFields in Lake City
Photo of the artist and bible quote that accompanies the quilt. (Source: WMBF News)
Photo of the artist and bible quote that accompanies the quilt. (Source: WMBF News)

LAKE CITY, SC (WMBF) – A controversial piece of art is raising eyebrows ahead of Lake City's annual ArtFields event.

A quilt by McClellanville artist Loretta Gerald depicts a fully-clad KKK member, a burning cross, and a black man hanging by a noose from a tree.

Gerald, who is black, submitted the piece, titled "Bitter Fruit Racial Crop" to the 2017 ArtFields competition in Lake City. The works are displayed at various businesses around the city, and winners are chosen in several categories.

"I'm looking forward to having people come to ArtFields, and after ArtFields we are going to come together as a community again and we are going to talk and we are going to bond, because as ArtFields we want to bring in the art, we want to bring conversation, and we want to bring unity and we want to bring growth," said Carla Angus, community outreach for ArtFields. "That's our intent."

A statement on ArtFields' Facebook page elaborates on the competition's view of the piece:

ArtFields is a place that gives voice to Southern art. Art can depict the beautiful and sacred, and it can depict the worst of mankind's soul. All powerful art inspires conversation. One such conversation is unfolding now regarding a competition piece by an African American/black, Charleston area textile artist, which channels a truly tragic Southern experience.

Gerald's website says it's based off a bible verse Jeremiah 2:14, which is presented alongside the quilt: "Is Israel a servant? Is he a home born slave? Why is he spoiled? What seeth thou?"

This particular piece, called "Bitter Fruit Racial Crop,"is one of seven pieces in Gerald's series, "Babe Creations."

"It's about me and it's about what I've suffered and what my ancestors have suffered," she said. "I wasn't trying to cause a controversy that is coming from this. So the people who are feeling extra about it is because something is already in them."

The artwork is hanging in East Main Market owned by Barbara Miles, who chose Gerald's artwork as a featured piece hanging in her venue, among others.

Miles said she chooses the artwork based on what evokes emotion in her and believes this piece did that.

"It is something I saw in me, in a vision, that I sketch, that I cut out, that I created," Gerald said. "This piece that Barbara has it took me eight months and it was hard to create I wept while I created it. It wasn't something that you just go and do."

Art work is created to stir people up and that's what it is doing Gerald believes.

"I don't have any anxious feeling in me about it," she said.

ArtFields administrative assistant Kevin Lassen said there are 409 pieces and organizers don't believe in singling one piece out.

"This is about all of the artists that are here and they are all competing, so there is a lot more going on than just one picture or one piece of work and it's really important to remember that." Lassen said. "Art tends to evoke conversation and that is exactly what is happening with this piece. We may not like all the conversation but we want to get some equal voice in the conversation."

Gerald said she will be Lake City Friday morning which is the first day of ArtFields. She said she signed up for one of the artist forums every artist has the chance to do where she will talk more about her artwork.

ArtFields brings hundreds of artists from around the region to Lake City for a week-long art competition and festival, with events at venues throughout the city. Read more about ArtFields here.

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