Last week, Congressman Doug Lamborn yanked down a painting by a Missouri high-school student that depicted a cop as a pig. The piece went back up on the walls of the Capitol — but today, the painting, a winner of the Congressional Art Competition for high-school students, came down for good, in response to criticisms by Lamborn and other lawmakers as well as House rules.
The "protest," as Lamborn describes it, wasn't the brainchild of the Colorado Springs politician. He was just following in the footsteps of California congressman Duncan Hunter, who first took down the painting, which was rehung by the Congressional Black Caucus several times.
“I could not, in good conscience, continue to walk by a painting that so flagrantly disrespected the brave police officers that protect us here in the Capitol and in our communities across the country," Lamborn explains in a statement.
"I decided to continue the protest started by my colleague Congressman Hunter," Lamborn adds. "I hope that permanent action is taken to remove this brazen attack on the brave men and women who make up the thin blue line.”
The Hill's Christina Marcos reports that last week, the official Capitol architect ruled that the painting violated House Office Building Commission policies prohibiting artworks that depict "subjects of contemporary political controversy of a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.”
Giving context to Lamborn's actions, his communications director, Jarred Rego, points to the rules of the contest: "While it is not the intent to censor any artwork, we do wish to avoid artwork that is potentially inappropriate for display in this highly travelled area leading to the Capitol."
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Wondering what art Lamborn's district submitted to the contest? It was a charcoal portrait by seventeen-year-old Simone Brewer, whose drawing was selected not by Lamborn, despite his curatorial interests, but by a panel of local artists and art supporters.
Lamborn declined an interview request with Westword to discuss the role of government in art.