When someone decides to visit the Whitney Museum there seems to be one piece that captures everybody’s attention. It is the open casket painting by Dana Schutz. In this painting, the artist tried to show us her take on the famous photograph of the death of Emmett Till, a young african-american boy who was viciously murdered. During his funeral, his mother decided to have an “open casket” in order to demonstrate the violence that was so prevalent just 60 years ago.
There are three predominant colours we can see in this painting, white, black and yellow. The way the artist decides to use those colours is very interesting. The type of painting is a combination of realism and impressionism. We can clearly understand that there is a person lying on something, it is initially difficult to see that his face has been deformed by the strikes he received. We can clearly identify the flowers surrounding the deceased but only on the upper side of the painting. The flowers aswell as the white shirt represent a break from a very busy painting.
While the photos of that period were black and white, the painter here decides to paint the material of the casket yellow, this particular shade of yellow is very vivid and attracts a lot of attention from the viewer since it occupies such a large area. The red flower that is put on his suit is also a point of focus since it is very distinct from the rest of the painting. We notice that there are two of the three primary colours being used explicitly in this painting.
Ultimately, the purpose of this painting is controversial. Many argue that it should not be displayed at the Whitney Museum while others see its presence as a sign that we should not forget our history and specifically the violence that blacks endured. The message it gives to the viewer is very emotional. Initially, it is a very striking painting since it represents a horrible act of violence. After the initial reaction, I believe that people will start to contemplate moreso the context of the painting and not the painting itself.