ATLANTA -- "I loved his drawing," said George Beasley. He's in the lobby of the state Agriculture Department building, across from the state Capitol. Beasley is an admirer of the artist whose works decorate the lobby.
"Quick drawn lines, very fresh." He's looking at a painting depicting scientists in a research laboratory. It's one of seven paintings that have hung in the lobby for half a century, depicting scenes from the history of Georgia agriculture.
The artist, George Beattie, was once chairman of the Georgia Commission on the Arts. Beasley isn't just an admirer. Beasley is an Atlanta sculptor and was a personal friend of George Beattie.
"And being asked to describe the history of agriculture in Georgia gave George a chance to present the whole picture. I think he took it that way," said Beasley.
The public art in the Agriculture Department appears to be on a collision course with the world of politics. The Agriculture Department will get its first new commissioner in forty years next month. And part of his agenda is to get rid of George Beattie's art.
"I don't think they depict what Georgia's all about today," said Commissioner-elect Gary Black. He calls some of the paintings undesirable. Two of the seven paintings on display appear to depict slavery-- without brutality or judgment.
Another painting shows an arguably-racy depiction of partially clothed Native Americans.
"There's a couple of pictures there that are just not acceptable today. And I think there's one with native Americans there, and I don't know what those scenes are of, but I know they're not of agriculture today," said Black.
Black says the paintings will go into storage. Beasley argues they should stay put.
"I like the building. The paintings feel very comfortable in the space," said Beasley. "I think they should be in a good public place... Let's keep them there."
As the first new state agriculture commissioner in forty years, Gary Black says it's reasonable for him to update the department's look and message. The removal of the paintings will be part of that, he says.
Beasley points out that a lot of municipalities are now rediscovering mid-twentieth century art that had been kept out of public view. It would be ironic and disappointing, he says, if the state put this art under wraps now.