A portrait of Bill Cosby by Nick Rindo (Courtesy of Nick Rindo)

A portrait of Bill Cosby by Nick Rindo (image courtesy Nick Rindo)

Every year, the Minnesota State Fair offers a prized blue ribbon to the artist who can make the coolest picture from seeds of commonly grown crops. You can submit mosaics of almost anything; some have turned in portraits of Taylor Swift, Grumpy Cat, and even Trayvon Martin. 

Just don’t submit one of Bill Cosby. Especially if it’s made from Brassica napus, more commonly known as “rapeseed.” Nobody wants to think about that. At least, some of this year’s fairgoers didn’t.

Artist Nick Rindo told CBS that his crop art portrait of Cosby was removed from the exhibit hall on the very first day of the fair, after the venue received multiple complaints. It joins the ranks of two other artworks in the competition’s entire history that have been removed — one made from marijuana seeds, another containing a sexual reference.

It’s not clear why attendees were upset by the piece. It’d be nice to believe that they didn’t feel Cosby’s mug was something they wanted to look at. That might seem a natural response following allegations by over 40 women that the comedian drugged, sexually assaulted, and/or raped them — I certainly don’t want to look at murals and statues honoring the man. It would also jive with a recent poll that found more than half of all Americans now believe Cosby’s accusers and view him unfavorably.

But it seems more likely that fairgoers didn’t feel the portrait and its innuendos were a suitable subject for a family event — which seems ironic considering that Cosby himself has been the poster boy for family-friendly entertainment (and Jell-O) since his namesake sitcom first aired in 1982. How do you explain that to your kids?

Something as simple as a seed portrait could have been a way to start that dialogue. As Rindo told CBS, “the great thing about crop art is thousands of people see it at the State Fair and it would have potentially spawned thousands of conversations.” Families need to be talking about these uncomfortable realities, which wholesome, all-American personas like Cosby’s too often cloak. It’s safe to say fair organizers made a terrible mistake in removing it.

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

11 replies on “Minnesota Fair Censors Bill Cosby Portrait Made from Rapeseeds”

  1. So there were complaints so the State Fair removed the piece? why? I doubt that attendance to the fair would decline. My guess is the exact opposite would happen. Wow now i wish i had complained about all the bad art, much of it award-winning, i’ve viewed at the OC Fair here in California. my eyes, my eyes !!!! It made me run for the deep-fried twinkles ; )

  2. Meanwhile, Ms. Steinhauer wants the Smithsonian Museum to take a Bill Cosby portrait down.

    This pretentious critique of a state fair’s curatorial choices is silly. Leave it to a New York art critic to defend any shitty piece of art that happens to upset the hoi polloi.

      1. Yeah, that’s not the place to do it, where people just want to eat corn dogs and ride a ferris wheel or whatever. It’s out of context and inappropriate, just as a Confederate flag made of cotton seeds would be. It’s also just shitty art and no one should pretend it isn’t, nor will it stir up some conversation no one isn’t already having. Artists and art writers need to stop acting like culturally advanced snobs who know more or care more about anything at all more than anyone else.

  3. IF you haven’t heard Damon Wayans’ pathetic and misogynist attempts to defend Cosby, you should google it right now.

  4. a manufactured controversy! why, he could have avoided the whole issue by just calling the seeds by their proper name, Canola[tm]!

    [Nitfilter: It’s “jibe”, not “jive.”]

  5. they made a mistake in removing it because it’s censorship based on social anxiety….the notion I must do well and be liked by others or else I am no good…when others likes and dislikes really only describe themselves…they need a little psychotherapy down there in first amendment country,,,,btw Canada is just as stupid a lot of times…

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