By Zane Fletcher, Culture Editor
When Cody Fenske, a junior graphic design major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, entered a contest promoted through Hear Nebraska (a local music and arts promoter), he had no clue his entry would be vilified — even after he won.
The contest was to create a poster for Lincoln Exposed, a multi-day music festival in Lincoln.
Promised free publicity, $50 and prints of his work, Fenske – the creative mind he is – took the name of the contest quite literally. For his entry, he depicted Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, with half of his face decomposed — literally “exposing” Lincoln.
After Fenske collected his prize, he was surprised to see the mixed responses to his work. While many viewers were awed by his skill and creativity, still others thought it was disrespectful and jarring to see Lincoln— largely considered one of the greatest presidents of the United States —as dead, decomposing and disheveled.
The Lincoln Journal-Star reported some quotes from Fenske’s disparagers (was this following their supplement’s front cover of this poster?), such as:
“Maybe it’s my age. Is anyone else speaking up to say they are a little offended by the Lincoln Exposed portrait of Abraham Lincoln?”
“I was shocked and dismayed to see the horrible depiction of Abraham Lincoln on the cover page of Ground Zero for Jan. 30th! He was much too great a man to be portrayed like this, no matter the reason. I will avoid even opening the Ground Zero section in the future.”
“How dare you! What a horrible picture. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Fenske was able to maintain the greatest of artistic integrity in answering his detractors. He said, “If people are feeling any emotion—whether good or bad—about it, I’m doing my job. I want people to feel something.”