The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Student’s hanging sculpture sparks controversy

A City College student’s sculptural art installation of figures after it was taken down. Photo by ||Amy Wong|| [email protected]

A day after it was installed by maintenance workers, a City College student’s controversial sculptural art installation of figures hanging from nooses was taken down April 12 after campus administrators received a complaint about an offensive artwork.

Associate Vice President of Instruction Julia Jolly said she went to view the hanging sculpture, constructed by art major Zachary Voss and displayed along the side of the Fischbacher Fine Arts Building.

The installation depicted transparent and opaque human-like figures hanging high from rope nooses. Jolly asked to have the work taken down. Her decision was backed by City College President Kathryn Jeffery.

“I viewed the sculpture and I understood why it was thought to be offensive,” said Jolly, who also serves as City College’s equity officer and whose duties include looking into hostile campus environments.

Voss cast his figures in tape. In the hollow of the bodies are figurines of deer, buffalo, jack rabbit, mountains and cactuses that symbolize the manifestations of the natural world. According to Voss, the transparency of some of his figures was intentional so that onlookers could see what his bodies housed.

Voss said it was his intention to use the metaphor of lynching to further his concept of the way people disregard the natural world, which he sees as being obliterated.

“The idea that [industrial human] progress has to go on at the expense of nature has been sold to us and I don’t agree with it,” Voss said. “I knew I was putting a figure inside a noose. I did it intentionally because that was the strongest metaphor available to me. It was the way I felt I could best convey the message.”

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Voss is one of six advanced students in City College art professor Mitra Fabian’s sculpture class. As part of his final he sculpted the untitled work in question. Voss said he knew that there was the possibility for misinterpretation and he explained that he is also aware that figures hanging from nooses echo the dark history of lynchings in the U.S.

“The fact that they are vaguely human form is a great deal of the controversy,” Fabian said. Fabian said that it is unfortunate if people interpret Voss’ constructed bodies as only human figures.

“The misinterpretation that certain people on campus are fearing is that [other] people will interpret Zach’s work as celebratory,” said Fabian. “It’s not a celebratory piece at all. It’s an expression of victimhood. I think his hope was for people to see the figures as abstract figures. They are symbols of anything being destroyed. I think he’s looking to provoke conversation.”

Voss said he intends to keep an open dialogue with staff and administration and hopes that his art piece will be displayed again.

“I made something in order to communicate a message and if it’s not up there then I am not communicating,” Voss said.

Jolly said she had a meeting with Voss and Fabian April 13 following the takedown of his work and came to an understanding of Voss’ intention with his piece, but she said, “When you put it up that high, it’s hard to see the layers of message underneath that.”

Jolly emphasized that the rules of art display on campus are not changing because of the campus’s response to Voss’s work.

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