The University of Nevada, Reno is hosting an art exhibit featuring the American flag on the ground, impaled by an axe.
Located in the Jot Travis building on campus, the display features a description from the artist describing the work as falling “outside of the normal realm of any of my previous or planned work in that it carries a strong political message.” The artist says it “captures the symbolic notion of change through the objects presented.”
Campus Reform reported on Monday that the display features several axes on a wall in progressively lower angles, the final of which cuts through an American flag crumpled on the floor.
The display hasn’t gone unnoticed by students who contacted the publication to voice their anger at its message and flagrant disrespect for the U.S. flag.
“Displaying such disregard to the American flag is not a ‘discussion starter’ as the artist and art department claims it to be,” said a senior named Gino, whose last name was not mentioned. The student said “it rather creates a divide–a divide that is being bred on college campuses in the pursuit of political correctness and victimization.”
“While other controversies on campus have gained substantial attention have earned an immediate apology from the office of the president, Marc Johnson, this deeply offensive display has not received any comment from UNR officials,” Gino added. “This blatant disrespect to the American flag, sacred to so many people, is hard to believe that it is being displayed in an institution that relies on American funding to run.”
Another student named Rick, who is also a military veteran, said that the university responds to incidents that cause offense with counseling services, such as when the election results were announced, offensive costumes, and swastika graffiti found in the stairwell of the school’s Church of Fine Arts building in mid-October.
Speaking to NBC4 earlier this month, Tamara Scronce, interim director of UNR’s School of the Arts, and Paul Baker Prindle, director of the Sheppard Contemporary and University Galleries, defended the art piece by saying its controversial message and the arguments it’s created “remind us that our differences are what make us strong.”
The artist, 22-year-old Mark Combs, who is an U.S. Air Force veteran and a master’s student, said that the display wasn’t about denigrating the flag, but rather asking “a question about the state of our country.”
“Let me be clear, I revere our country and I revere our flag,” Combs said. “I have personally draped the flag over soldier’s caskets, carried their remains, and saluted them in respect and honor as they have been moved from base to base on their way home.”
“I don’t believe the general population of our nation is solely responsible for current perceptions; I believe our leadership is tremendously liable. That is what this sculpture is about,” concluded Combs. “The piece is intended to call into question our damaged image, and even question our tarnished American values.”