A recent piece of artwork displayed at Castleton State College had some students up in arms. A bundle of sticks mounted on the wall and titled “fagot” garnered attention and dispute from students who debated whether its controversial title was appropriate to display at a college.
“I found the name annoying,” said Myles Mickle, a CSC senior. “I get that the artist was trying to make people think about the two different meanings of the word, but I think that it was more for shock value than anything.”
The piece, by artist James Florschutz, is just an unassuming bundle of light tan sticks at first glance. It only proved to be controversial when Mickle and other students noticed the title on a small cream-colored card during a group activity that they were participating in at the Fine Arts Center.
“The piece ‘fagot’ wasn’t meant to have another meaning, but the title can be construed interestingly. A fagot is a bundle of sticks. That’s what I knew fagot meant before I learned that it meant homosexual,” Florschutz said.
Florschutz feels that the names of many of his pieces have double meanings that people viewing them can take away.
“All art should do that,” Florschutz said.
Sally Ann Majoya, a soundings professor at CSC, agreed with Florschutz.
“I think that it’s ok because it’s art. I feel that sometimes the experience is even enhanced when a piece makes you think instead of just presenting its point at face value.”
Other sculptures in the exhibit included an interesting mix of objects that often can be surprising.
Many of Florschutz’s pieces include such found objects as telephones, wires, and paper that are integrated with all kinds of wood. Only a few pieces in the exhibit, including “fagot,” were made of only wood.
“Everything that I use is interesting to me. I don’t look at the things I use as objects, I look at them as materials,”
Florschutz said. “I assign the same value to all of them, whether they are a piece of wood or plastic. All materials have their own language and their own history.”
The argument ultimately comes down to whether using language that has suggestive social meaning is appropriate here at Castleton where groups like 1 in 10 strive to protect sexual equality.
The opinion of both Florschutz and Majoya is that the piece “fagot” is meant to educate and to bring attention to a word that has been distorted from its original meaning.