Joel Osteen Artwork Removed from Atlanta Library

Art is subjective. As we've seen with Robert Mapplethorpe exhibits and crosses floating in urine, it can also be controversial. But normally, garden-variety portraits don't rise to the level of pissing people off...unless they are of super preacher Joel Osteen, apparently.

A Grayson, Georgia, library was forced to remove the artwork of Osteen and a number of other "famous" ministers when a visitor complained. Grayson is a small community about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta and wouldn't appear to be the hub of religious unrest, but it does hang artwork from local artists including Ralph Beach. His exhibit was supposed to remain in the library until August 11, but it came down sooner according to the Gwinnett Daily Post (click that link to see an image of the Osteen masterpiece).

"They made me take it down," Beach said. "I guess some of the bigwigs from the office in charge of the libraries ... said it was 'inclusive, too narrow.'"

#The library originally hung the art, but a library official said that the scope of the art wasn't realized until it was on view to the public.

#"Both the community and local artists have enjoyed and benefited from the art program at the library," said Barbara Spruill, branch services division director for Gwinnett County Public Library. "We started the program so that the community could experience the work of local artists in a neutral environment. ... The library strives to present the community with a broad perspective. What has happened with Mr. Beach is unfortunate. The scope of this display was not realized until it was fully installed."

Beach doesn't only create religious works -- he paints nature and people as well.

"Scope of this display" is nice speak for "a bunch of artwork of preachers." Frankly, we think they would have had an easier go of it had they opted for Osteen's wife, Victoria. While she may be a little tough on airlines, she isn't exactly difficult to look at. Maybe a portrait of her with a halo would have been more acceptable.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke