Vandal removes swear

By Dave Gomez and Sara Dolan

As three giant, red bees point dripping, yellow stingers in its direction, the skeleton in Lauren Dudko’s painting “0.00007” clutches its skull in apparent stress, crying, “Oh Christ, please [f—] off.”

An unknown suspect or suspects failed to heed the message earlier this week, vandalizing the work while it was on display in Neptune North’s Fine Arts House, scratching out the F-word using what appeared to be black crayon or charcoal.

Dudko, a senior fine arts major, said that she had planned to use the work as part of her portfolio to apply to Stanford or Yale university graduate school.

The work was one of her 10 on display in the Fine Arts House, Dudko said. It was next to two other works near the residence hall’s computer lab, an area with much student traffic.

“I was just infuriated,” Dudko said. “It’s just my private property.”

Dudko said she discovered the vandalism Monday night. The damage to the work is irreparable.

“The reason that it is so troublesome is that other people are going to want to display their art down there,” Dudko said. “Art is like a form for free speech, and you can’t handle that, so you’re going to criminalize that? How many times are you going to hear the word [f—] and you can’t handle [it]?”

NIU assistant art professor Karen Brown said the vandalism was a shameful act.

“It speaks to an incredibly regrettable immaturity on the ability of other people to tolerate ideas on which they do not agree,” Brown said. “That’s what the rise of fascism looks like, with the utter inability to tolerate the expressions of other people.”

Brown called Dudko “one of our very best students” and said her works were validly provocative.

“Her work is incredibly beautiful,” Brown said. “It’s the direct experience of her own life.”

The adjacent works include a pegasus surrounded by bats and sphinx-like creatures as fruit rains down and a depiction of skeletons performing an abortion with colorful balloons fill the background.

“Art begins where words leave off. The impulse to make pictures comes from the fact that no other language exists to discuss ‘this,’ whatever ‘this’ is,” Brown said. “The impulse to destroy something like that betrays the common trust.”

Brown said viewers of the exhibit had a book where they could add comments, whether negative or positive.

“I think that when you disagree with a piece of work, which more than one person did, we should be really happy with the ability to disagree with something,” Brown said.

University Police declined to comment on any suspects in the case, but said offenders could face charges of criminal damage to property for the incident.