If you’re like us, then the New York Times Op-Ed page is a must-read, in part because of the artwork that’s paired with pieces. Take our favorite columnist, Frank Rich. Next to a recent article on the stimulus bill was the image of a large shark with his pearly whites trained on the President. Under that sat another image, this time of a gleeful Obama posing next to his strung up, captured enemy. It was a powerful visual metaphor.
Not all art makes it into the paper, though, and no one knows that better than Jerelle Kraus. She spent thirteen years at the Times as the Op-Ed Art Editor fighting the good fight for legendary artists such as Ralph Steadman, who wrote the forward to her new book: All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t). We met Jerelle a few weeks ago during a daytime lecture and slideshow at the 92YTribeca where she went through hundreds of pieces of Op-Ed art and told stories of working at the Gray Lady — our favorite involved Richard Nixon tracking her down to get her drawing of him with Brezhnev. Heh.
After the jump, Jerelle reveals her five favorite censored art pieces exclusively for Flavorwire, along with some backstory on why they never ran. Let us know if you agree with her editors’ decisions in the comments.
1. Every tatoo represents one of Kissinger’s war crimes. My editor’s reason for censoring it: “It’s a cheap shot.”
2. The editor killed this perfect image for intellectual property on the Internet by saying, “The Times can’t publish a bare breast and a nipple!”
3. The “mildest winter in 16 years” preceded the blizzard of 1888. Despite reading 97 degrees, a thermometer was covered with ice and surrounded by falling snow. Why then — in the last seconds before the page closed — was this innocuous, two-inch square drawing killed? The incontestable verdict from editorial page editor Howell Raines? “It looks like an ejaculation.”
4. Bloated government subsidies to big corporations became a placid Holstein whose black spots formed a U.S. map. A sharp-suited businessman guzzled the bountiful flow from a big bovine’s Florida-shaped teat. “That’s a riot!” chuckled the Op-Ed editor. And it’s spot on. But there’s no way we can run it.” I know their prudish reasoning: the metaphor was too human and humid.
5. A manuscript on the neglect of black Korean War veterans recounted the courageous behavior of one heroic African-American corporal who stood alone on a hill after his entire company had fallen. Ammunition exhausted, he bravely flung rocks at the enemy, who, in awe, captured rather than killed him. Yet his own country’s army denied him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Here was the perfect embodiment of this flagrant racism. My editor’s assessment of the drawing before “killing” it: “We can’t picture the army as racist!”