Students send ‘Pollock’ T-shirts to legislator


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It’s as if mini-Jackson Pollock paintings have found their way onto 46 white shirts.

University of Iowa art students splattered each other’s T-shirts last week to celebrate the withdrawal of a bill that would have required the UI to sell its famous Jackson Pollock painting, Mural. On Tuesday, they packaged them up to be shipped to the lawmaker who suggesting the controversial idea.

Students said the gesture wasn’t meant to irritate the legislator. Rather, they wanted to thank Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, for ultimately pulling back his bill, which passed a House subcommittee before dying.

“Each shirt kind of has its own personality, I think,” said UI senior Lars Headington, who helped organize the event.

Headington and six other UI art students originally intended the event they created to be a protest against the bill. But news of the withdrawal turned it into a celebration on Feb. 24 as they donned white Hanes’ T-shirts as canvasses, allowing others to splatter them with “kiddie” paint.

“We were looking at it as more of an art piece, a performance,” said UI sophomore Lindsay Burke.

At the event in the Studio Arts Building, participants signed a letter thanking Raecker for backing off on the idea; they sent the letter, and two-and-a-half pages of signatures, to Raecker with the shirts.

“We hope that you will wear our Pollock-inspired shirts,” the letter reads, “and distribute additional ones to others in your committee and office as a reminder of what Jackson Pollock’s Mural means to us, should this issue present itself again.”

Raecker said he was glad to see students participating in the public process.

“I look forward to receiving their artwork T-shirts and will most likely donate them to a local school or shelter where they can be put to good use,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Headington said the discussion makes it seem as though some Iowa legislators are more concerned with the financial value of art than the intrinsic value for students learning from and studying the piece.

Heath Schultz, a UI graduate student who teaches the intermedia course that hosted the event, said the proposal was controversial because of the pattern it indicated regarding priceless pieces of art.

“But we shouldn’t celebrate or be too thankful for winning one battle,” he said. “There are many other issues to struggle over.”

The organizers presented the results of the event to fellow art students on Tuesday.

Art major Cristina Muzzio said the event was a success, because it drew attention to the topic.

“[The bill] was in the paper, but a lot of students didn’t look at it or didn’t know it was an issue,” the sophomore said.

Muzzio said UI faculty expressed interest in continuing the T-shirt splattering event in the future to raise money for art scholarships.

And Burke said the T-shirts themselves made an important message to state legislators regarding the $140 million Mural.

“We were just saying ‘We really care about it. Don’t try to sell it again,’ ” Burke said.

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