Campus Talk Haskell Indian Nations University

Does Artistic Merit Outweigh Outrage at Artist’s Crimes?

by Travis Campbell

One of Secondine’s paintings currently on display at the Haskell Library.

In light of the sexual harassment and issues going on in politics and, there is a small discussion on an artist’s work
and their past crimes. Don Secondine, Jr., a noted Cherokee artist and Haskell Indian Junior College alum, has two
paintings on display in the library at Tommaney Hall and others in storage. Unbeknownst to many, in 2009 Secondine
was sentenced to seven years in state prison after pleading no contest to aggravated indecent liberties with a
child, according to a July 14, 2009 article in the Lawrence Journal-World.

Secondine, remains a well-known painter who studied under Dr. Richard “Dick” West at Haskell in the 1970s. West, a World
War II veteran, is best remembered for his mastery of Plains-style flat painting in which he began working under the tutelage
of Acee Blue Eagle at Bacone University in Muskogee, Oklahoma in the 1930s. The influence of both Blue Eagle and West are
readily apparent in many of Secondine’s works.

How do students and staff feel about having Secondine’s work on display? Does the nature of the artist’s crimes outweigh the
artistic merits of his work?

Carrie Cornelius, acting director of the library stated that she had begun discussions with the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum
to discuss options for replacing Secondine’s work with others from the collection. Cornelius as well as David Titterington,
Haskell Art Instructor, indicated an interest in displaying work from current Haskell students in the library.
In the course of interviews conducted with Haskell students it does not appear as though many of the student body are aware of
Secondine’s crimes, but the prevailing opinion is one of indifference with students remarking that even the disturbed can create
beautiful works of art.

For the time being, Secondine’s work remains on display in the library

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