Since the beginning of time, art has always been a source for criticism. The critique of art is a many-headed monster. Some people don't like the way an artist paints. They don't like the use of color, the lighting, the shaping, the shading, and so on. There are hundred of ways in which art can be criticized.
To criticize art doesn't mean that you hate it, it means that you are analyzing an image and determining what the positive and negative attributes of that image are. But, there comes a point where art criticism morphs into something dark.
History has shown us that art has been a source for multiple terrible things.
The biggest example of this is how iconoclasm is used. Iconoclasm, if you aren't aware of the term, is basically the idea that you should destroy art (or even artists) that you believe shouldn't be around. Iconoclasm is mainly used for the sake of religion or politics. Starting in the 8th century, the Greek Orthodox Church fought over the removal of religious figures in paintings.
Before that, there were also cases iconoclasm, like hundreds of monuments and paintings that were destroyed due to the Muslim conquests in the 7th century. The French Revolution, the rise of Hitler, and Protestant Reformation all dealt with the destruction of art that was deemed "undesirable."
Even today, we have horrible acts of violence brought on from art. The most obvious example is the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed by Islamic terrorists after a satirical picture of Muhammed was published. Another example that comes to mind is the slew of Harry Potter book burnings that took place in the early 2000's. Although violence brought on by art is very seldom today, I'm getting worried that it will soon rise.
My worry comes from the way I have seen people become more scathing in their critique of art. In February of this year (2018), the National Gallery portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled.
Naturally, people on the left fawned over the portraits, while people on the left made fun of the portraits. Soon after the portraits came out, a lot of Republicans were in an uproar because the artist that painted the portrait of Barack also painted portraits of black women holding the severed heads of white women.
Personally, I actually like the portrait of Barack. I think the plane of horizon is all wrong, but I think the flowers and ivy are beautiful. The portrait of Michelle is very amateur to me, but that's just my opinion. I also think the portraits of the black women holding the heads of white women are beautifully painted, I just don't know why the artist thought this was a good choice of subject matter.
Earlier this morning, the actor/artist Jim Carrey released a portrait of "so-called Christian." The painting is masterfully done, and it looks a lot like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Even though this only happened this morning, there is already a lot of ire floating around the internet. People are talking about boycotting Jim Carrey movies, harming him, and making him stop painting.
Even the bastardization of the "Pepe" meme by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election cycle scares me. I acknowledge that the meme was being repurposed by white nationalist groups, but Hillary Clinton declared that the whole meme itself was hate speech. The fact that a person, who could have possibly been our president, was so offended by a green frog picture that it made a divide in our nation, is scary.
What I want is for people to look at history and see how this behavior always turns out. Stop being offended by a picture of Obama in ivy. Stop being offended by a benign green frog. If we destroy each other over art, it shows that we have learned nothing from the years that happened before us. As Heinrich Heine once said, "where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people."