The Black Wall Street Gallery in New York decided to destroy six paintings that drew controversy for using culturally sensitive symbols of the Osage Nation. The paintings were included in Charica Daugherty’s exhibit entitled “Wolfsbane and the Flower Moon.” The artworks featured dead and naked Native American women and the dreamcatcher symbol to depict the mass murders of Osage people in Oklahoma from 1910 to 1930.
Daugherty’s paintings went on exhibit at the Black Wall Street Gallery in July 15; but after drawing attention for being offensive in sensualizing the “Reign of Terror” victims, gallery owner Dr. Ricco Wright shut down the exhibit in July 17.
Dr. Wright wrote an open letter of apology to the Osage people and later decided to destroy the six controversial paintings as show of sincerity of their remorse in the mistakes they committed.
What was the Backlash Against Daugherty’s Paintings?
Dr. Ricco Wright became aware of their mistakes after an artist belonging to the Osage Nation wrote a comment in his (Wright’s) Instagram, which in part said: “there should have been careful examination of history and culture in the artist’s (Daugherty’s) use of their symbols.”
Apparently, the “dreamcatcher” symbol was banned in 2017, while the depiction of the Osage women in the nude was found culturally offensive. In realizing their mistake, Dr. Wright said that the nudity in the paintings was not intended to hyper-sensualize the theme of the art; but they understand that outside of the art world, nudity can have a different interpretation.
He also said that another mistake on his part is not reaching out to the Osage nation before opening up an exhibit based on their history.
After closing the exhibit, Dr. Wright published an open letter of apology to the Osage Nation and had all information and images related to the exhibit taken down in all their social physical space, website, and social media accounts.
While initially, he promised to donate all the profits collected from the exhibit, ha later released another statement saying that all of Daugherty’s works have been destroyed by cutting it into hundreds of pieces to make sure they are no longer recognizable. Dr. Wright, who is a native of Tulsa, wrote that they fully realize that apologizing for their intention to educate the public about the Osage murders is one thing, but it does not take away the impact of how they did it.