Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Deep-fried stars and stripes exhibit stirs controversy


An art exhibit featuring deep-fried US flags, complete with peanut oil and black pepper, has been removed by a museum director in a military-friendly town.

Art student William Gentry said his piece, "The Fat Is in the Fire," was a commentary on obesity in the US.

"I deep-fried the flag because I'm concerned about America and about America's health," Gentry said.

Customs House Museum executive director Ned Crouch took down the artwork on Wednesday shortly after it went up in Clarksville, next to Fort Campbell.

"It's about what the community values," Crouch said. "I'm representing 99 percent of our membership -- educators, doctors, lawyers, military families."

He also said the timing of the piece could cause "incendiary reactions."

"Never in the history of the country has the flag been more hated or more loved," Crouch said.

Treatment of the stars and stripes is an ongoing and passionate debate in the US.

Flag-burning at political protests is a guaranteed way to start scuffles and fistfights, and often to be arrested by local police. The US Supreme Court, however, has ruled that flag-burning is a constitutionally protected form of legal political protest.

The exhibit featured three US flags imprinted with phrases such as "Poor people are obese because they eat poorly" and more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper.

Clarksville resident and Navy veteran Bill Larson said the museum should not restrict the free speech of an artist based on public response.

"The museum is obligated to the citizens of the community to present art, and it totally failed in that regard," Larson said.

Gentry, who had to publicly display his work for a senior project at Austin Peay State University, said he hoped people would get past the flag imagery and address the health issue.

"I hope they are upset, but I hope they don't miss the point," he said.

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