Three pieces of artwork by Ed Noriega were pulled from an art show at the Heritage Hall Museum in Talladega last week by the museum’s board.

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Troy director’s art pulled from show for being too controversial

Published 11:00pm Friday, January 18, 2013

Three pieces of artwork by Ed Noriega were pulled from an art show at the Heritage Hall Museum in Talladega last week by the museum’s board.

Noriega’s artwork was part of the Troy University Faculty Art Show that was scheduled to hang at the Talladega museum and is a commentary on Alabama’s immigration law.

Pam Allen, interim chair of Troy University Department of Art and Design, said that the exhibit was to be a Troy University faculty show. The other faculty members who had contributed to the show agreed that if Noriega’s work could not be shown, it would not be a “faculty” show and they would not participate in the show. As a result the Troy University Faculty Art Show exhibit was pulled from the Heritage Hall Museum.

Kelly Williams, Heritage Hall Museum office manager, said the decision to pull the show was made by the commission that governs the body of the museum.

“There were three of Ed Noriega’s pieces that the commission did not think were appropriate to be shown at Heritage Hall Museum,” Williams said. “One was a stack of cans that had swastikas on the top and two dealt the Virgin Mary. The commission thought that these pieces were not appropriate and there could be strong negative feelings about them. The commission stood by its principles and pulled the show.”

Williams said Pam Allen had a show at Heritage Hall Museum and the museum looks forward to working with Troy University in the future.

Noriega, Director of the Center for Design, Technology & Industry at Troy University, said that he is passionate about what he believes and uses his art as a venue to get his message out about the issue of immigration.

“The artwork deals with the Alabama immigration law passed last year and the main point that I wanted to get across is that we depend economically, morally and financially on immigrant labor to feed and clothe us,” Noriega said. “Immigrants do the work that is not necessarily the kind of work others want to do. The jobs they do are mainly low-paying and are hard work and have no benefits.”

Noriega said that, if it were not for immigrant labor, the produce that Americans pay two dollars a pound for would cost three to four times that much.

“These immigrants do contribute to the economy,” he said. “They pay sales taxes on food and clothing and other things they buy. But their major contribution is the labor they provide at minimum wage or below and that keep the prices down at grocery markets where we are all going to feel the adverse effects of Alabama’s immigration law.

“The immigration law that Alabama passed picks on people who are more victims than they are culprits. We are shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Noriega said the real culprits are the high tech industries that are sending high paying jobs to China and India.

Noriega said Alabama’s immigration law could be considered a form of ethnic cleansing.

“That’s interesting because we are all immigrants to this country,” he said. “And, it’s hard to understand how, in the Bible Belt, there could be so much indifference to the way people are being treated. There seems to be little church involvement, little compassion. How can we turn our backs and not look at families that have been told to leave. We need to look in the mirror but we won’t because we don’t want to see how horribly we are treating people. We want to believe that we are on the right side and don’t want to hear anything else.”

Noriega said that his work that was rejected by the Talladega museum is drawing a lot of dialogue and hopefully has people thinking and talking.

“We don’t need to be afraid to speak up and say what we believe to be right, even if it’s out of the ordinary,” he said. “With my art, I was not trying to offend anyone. I was hoping to get others to consider the issue with immigration and decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong and then have the courage to speak up. Maybe Heritage Hall Museum did me a favor by making a thing of it. Maybe they did.”

The Troy University Faculty Show was featured at the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan July through October 2012, complete with all five of Noriega’s pieces.

Katie Wainwright, museum curatorial assistant, said the show was well received and there was no controversial dialogue surrounding the show.

“The show received a good reception and Ed Noriega’s artwork was not an issue,” Wainwright said. “If there was any question about it, it was not a big enough to pull the pieces. It was important to show the complete exhibit, not pick and choose the pieces.

“To my knowledge, no one brought Ed Noriega’s artwork to our attention or was offended by it.”


  • zztrojan

    His artwork insults folks who like the Virgin Mary, then implies that food producers are Nazis and then he blames churches for not joining in his cause? Hmmm…. sounds like he needs a Dale Carnegie course.

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  • David M. Smith

    In all to respect to zztrojan, you have a right to your opinion. Yes, his work may be controversial, but it proves a point. Art work is always based off of opinions and just because someone doesn’t like it or has a issue with it doesn’t mean its bad. If the museum really understood the meaning of the artwork, like they should have, then they would have had no issue with it. Everyone is so scared to confront issues and when someone does with artwork, people get offended.

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  • DevanB

    Yes, while davidmsmith87 is correct, so is zztrojan. I have recently graduated from the design technology innovation/industry department, and Ed was my advisor for my senior thesis body of work and over my entire degree. To say that these illegal immigrants are doing their part by paying sales tax, is insane. One has no option to paying sales tax or not. Also, while some of his pieces are very progressive thinking, he is missing that the point of HB-56 was to find those illegal immigrants and remove them. Not remove all immigrants; just get a legal three year work visa like many companies in Alabama do.

    Ed’s work was correct to be removed as some pieces stereotype his on race with Virgin Mary’s (even though he is atheist) and have expletives in the work such as “Come mierda, pendejo”.

    The Wiregrass Museum of Art didn’t remove the pieces, because a Troy University Art/Design professor is on their Board of Directors, plain and simple.

    Pieces of work that press issues in the wrong way, should not be displayed. I fully support the Heritage Museum’s decision.

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    • David M. Smith

      Question to you, DevanB, is If we were to remove all those illegal Immigrants, without giving them the option to become a US citizen, then who would get outside and pick fruits/vegetables, build homes and much more for below the minimum wage or even at minimum? I bet you anything, not many people would and I bet you I can count them on the three fingers I have. What if the companies don’t want the people to get the work permits, so they can pay them cheaper, I’m sure that has happened a lot in Alabama.

      I don’t believe his work was justified in being removed. He didn’t stereotype his own race, because a lot of his race do those type of jobs, look at the stats. Also, we are all grown folks and can handle “bad words” and I’m sure you have used them as well.

      Also, if pieces that are pressed in the wrong way need to be removed then remove Democrats Party Seal, Republicans Party Seal, Gay Rights Symbol, Gun Control Symbol, and any other seal of any religion as well. They are always pressuring you to join the party or believe a certain belief.

      I support the staff of taking a stand. Its call freedom of speech and Mr. E is allow to do so. Mr. Observer, Your statement is correct in saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” which applies here, “If you can’t stand controversy, stay out of the arts.”

      Wake Up America!

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  • Observer

    From the Heritage Hall Museum website it appears the Hall is a public venture – using a former Carnegie Library as an arts center. As such, we have the typical problem of political sensitivities colliding with free expression.

    While I would not endorse Noriega’s viewpoint nor appreciate his artistry (as illustrated in the photograph) I believe that as long as the items presented are not pornographic or otherwise illegal a public institution which invites individuals to present (art works, speeches, etc.,) should not practice censorship as they are government agents. One has to wonder would the Hall directors object to Michelangelo’s “Pieta” or “David”?

    There is an expression, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” which applies here, “If you can’t stand controversy, stay out of the arts.”

    It is refreshing to see Troy State faculty standing up for a matter of principal – it has been so long since anyone at the local college stood up for anything – - the 1960s .

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  • Trojan97

    That’s art! Amazing what people consider to be art. If your a well known artist, you can throw a few splashes of paint on a canvas and give it a name and stupid people will buy it for hundreds of thousands of dollars. My Kindergartener can draw better art than that stupid plate. Art my a$$!

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    I’d like to buy one. So sad such a simple and elegant expression is suppressed. Jesus said feed the hungry which was a simple and elegant expression in the face of suppression.

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    • TFan

      NOT art in the eyes of THIS beholder, but the man’s got a right to express his opinion in what he regards artistic.

      Smells like censorship to me…. gad, where’s this country headed???

      TFan in Troy

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  • paradisereturn

    Over sensitivity is a chronic condition in our country. – Not only that but he was representing a viewpoint of Alabama’s immigration law that is held broadly throughout the country. I travel a lot with my job and it is one thing I’m asked about constantly when people find out where I am from. It’s one issue, among many in our state, that needs to be discussed with all opinions being represented instead of just the status quo.

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    • Gladgran

      Thank you, paradisereturn, for pointing out how badly this law makes Alabama look in the eyes of the world.

      It is especially ironic that this year begins a commemoration of some of the most important moments in the struggle for civil rights fifty years ago, 2013-5, and state officials support new Jim Crowe-type laws intended to set us back 50 years.

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  • Gladgran

    DevanB, please take some time to learn more about immigration reality. There is no way for most people simply to “just get a legal three year work visa like many companies in Alabama do.” Also, the statements made by many responsible for the law show that it is based upon lies, misinformation and stereotypes, as well as ignoring the role played by U.S. foreign policy in wrecking havoc on the politics and economies of neighboring countrys, thus producing the conditions that “push” people to see ways to survive.

    How do you differ “wrong” and “right” ways to press issues? What do you see as censorship? What are the limits on the First Amendment right to free expression.

    Professor Noriega expressed his personal opinion through his art, which may have offended some people; however, isn’t that part of the purpose of art? I hope that that the controversy leads to some dialogue. Shutting down peaceful–even disrespectful–dissent can become dangerous.

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