Does Artistic Merit Outweigh Outrage at Artist’s Crimes?

One of Secondine’s paintings currently on display at the Haskell Library.

Published November 22, 2017

LAWRENCE, KANSAS – In light of the sexual harassment and issues going on in politics and, there is a small discussion on an artist’s work and their past crimes. Don Secondine, Jr., a noted Cherokee artist and Haskell Indian Junior College alum, has two paintings on display in the library at Tommaney Hall and others in storage. Unbeknownst to many, in 2009 Secondine was sentenced to seven years in state prison after pleading no contest to aggravated indecent liberties with a child, according to a July 14, 2009 article in the Lawrence Journal-World.

Secondine, remains a well-known painter who studied under Dr. Richard “Dick” West at Haskell in the 1970s. West, a World War II veteran, is best remembered for his mastery of Plains-style flat painting in which he began working under the tutelage of Acee Blue Eagle at Bacone University in Muskogee, Oklahoma in the 1930s. The influence of both Blue Eagle and West are readily apparent in many of Secondine’s works.

How do students and staff feel about having Secondine’s work on display? Does the nature of the artist’s crimes outweigh the artistic merits of his work?

Carrie Cornelius, acting director of the library stated that she had begun discussions with the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum to discuss options for replacing Secondine’s work with others from the collection. Cornelius as well as David Titterington, Haskell Art Instructor, indicated an interest in displaying work from current Haskell students in the library.

In the course of interviews conducted with Haskell students it does not appear as though many of the student body are aware of Secondine’s crimes, but the prevailing opinion is one of indifference with students remarking that even the disturbed can create
beautiful works of art.

For the time being, Secondine’s work remains on display in the library.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the Haskell Indian Nations University’s “Indian Leader.” Used with permission. All rights reserved.


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