Provocative art sparks Greek Life debate

Fifth-year art student Catherine Peters hung seven paintings of sorority sisters in Williams Hall on Tuesday morning, around 10:30 a.m.Approximately 12 hours later, Peters received her first angry phone call, she said.”The person asked me who did [the paintings] and told me ‘I can’t believe you did that,” Peters said.Each of the portraits depicted a female wearing a necklace with trademarked Greek letters on a charm. Hot pink censor bars and a derogatory phrases, such as “Drunk,” “Psycho” and “Coke-head” were painted over each female’s eyes.According to an e-mail from Simone Blaise-Glaunsinger of the Art Department, the alumni office received complaints from alumni and parents who were disgruntled and offended by the paintings. That same day the paintings were taken down, Peters said.”I made the decision to take them down because they were displayed in a public space,” Associate Professor and Department Chair of Photography, Bill McDowell, said.”Had they been shown in the Colburn Gallery, where a visitor makes a deliberate decision to view art, I would not have asked that they be removed,” he said.Peters admitted that she wanted to turn heads. “I wouldn’t have done something like this if I didn’t mean it,” she said.Peters, an alumna of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, said that the purpose of her art was to speak to her fellow sisters in the Greek community and urge them to break free of stereotypes.”The women in the Greek community go out and give us these horrible names and they keep telling themselves that they’re doing things to change this, but they’re not,” Peters said.Greek Life Advisor Kim Monteaux said that she felt the biggest mistake that was made was the lack of an artist statement beneath the paintings. “I don’t think that [Peters’] art should have been censored,” Monteaux said. “But she should have been more sensitive about her sorority sisters’ feelings and should not have used real organizations.”Pan-Hellenic President Sarah Engleman agreed. She said that Peters should not have used trademarked letters because it was offensive to those respective sororities.Monteaux said her advice to the Greek community is to live their values and think about their actions so that such stereotypes are not perpetuated further.”Maybe [these paintings are] how Cathy thought she would contribute to the betterment of Greek Life,” she said, “No media is bad media.”McDowell said that he supported Peters’ efforts to produce provocative art and hopes she continues to make art that “explores and confronts gender stereotypes.” “When I first viewed Catherine’s paintings, I thought that either they referred to the labeling of sorority sisters by others, or that it was an act of labeling by the artist,” McDowell said, “It wasn’t clear to me what her stance was.” Peters’ professor Frank Owens told Peters in an e-mail that he supported her. “As an artist you are free to spread confusion … profound clarity … [and] serve as [an] irritant,” he said.Peters also said that she had a lot of support from girls within her chapter.