Artist's painting removed from Atlanta airport


  • Vinnie Sherfield
  • The painting "Voter Suppression" was displayed in the airport's T Gallery as part of a group exhibition

An artist whose work was displayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is crying censorship after his work was removed by the air hub's officials.

Vinnie Sherfield submitted two paintings as part of a group exhibition sponsored by the National Arts Program in the airport's T Gallery. Both works were approved by airport officials, he says. One week later, however, he says he was told that one of the works would have to be taken down and replaced with a different painting.

The piece, titled "Voter Suppression," depicts a prison-cell scene in which a shackled, blindfolded man tries to cast a ballot that's clutched between his teeth in a voting box out of his reach. Above him hangs the blade of a guillotine. Rays of light shine on the man from a small barred window. A large American flag is painted on the opposite wall and bleeds on to the floor. The work, Sherfield tells CL, is a "visual representation documenting the Cost of Freedom and those who paid the price for it."

The Douglasville-based artist says he's worked with "countless numbers of young adults who were oblivious to the struggles and sacrifices that have been made throughout history for the right to vote - and how important it is to continue to exercise that right." He says voter suppression is real.

Sherfield says "numerous airport employees and Transportation Security Administration workers" told him when he took down the painting that they were "outraged and even saddened" that the artwork was being removed.

"I was very disappointed to know that the world's largest airport that sees thousands and thousands of people on a daily basis would remove a painting from an art exhibit because one or two people made a negative comment about it," he tells CL. "I find it ironic that a painting about voter suppression is being suppressed in a country where one of our fundamental rights is freedom of speech. If freedom of speech exists in America, it certainly does not exist at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport."

An airport spokesman this morning offered the following comment: "The Airport Art Program staff, who have complete discretion regarding works displayed in the National Arts Program Employee Art Exhibit, made the decision to replace Sherfield's painting with another of his works after complaints from passengers that the first piece was disturbing. The staff discussed the decision with Sherfield, who agreed to give them an alternative piece."

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