By James Racer II
It’s amazing how fast and how furiously things can spiral out of control on the internet. An Albany Oregon high school senior endured an emotional public shaming ordeal involving a national art prize that culminated in death threats from people she never knew.
Kasey Bowman 17, was selected to win a National Gold Medal and American Visions Award from The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers who present The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. One of her multiple prize winning paintings appears very similar to one by another artist who is popular on deviantart.com, a social media site for artists and art fans. When someone noticed the similarities between the paintings they mentioned it online. The news quickly spread to other sites, and to the artist Bowman was accused of copying. The stories began receiving comments by people outraged at Bowman.
The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers was contacted, as well as Bowman’s school, and Bowman herself, by people angered at what they read online. Several public forums began filling with often unkind comments. One of the sources contacted was the Albany Democrat-Herald. Jennifer Moody, Education Reporter, wrote about the controversy due to the comments posted to the original story. Bowman made a public apology on her deviantart page. The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers revoked the awards given to Bowman. The statement on their Facebook page read:
“It has been brought to our attention, and we have confirmed, that a high school student submitted to The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards a painting that she now acknowledges was copied from another artist, Wenqing Yan. The student has apologized to the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and her National Gold Medal and American Visions Award have been revoked. She is no longer considered a Scholastic Award winner. The work will not appear in our publications and the painting was removed from our online galleries. Contrary to information posted online by commenters on various sites, this student received no monetary prize from our program.” (Read further.)
Bowman received death threats over her painting. That’s how out of control social media can get. All the connections made through the social web and the perceived anonymity of modern communication sometimes seems to bypass many people’s comment filters.