Two KKK members wearing white hoods.

Photo courtesy of Martin via Flickr Creative Commons.

A Caucasian professor from the University of Miami is at the center of a heated controversy after she used the American flag to craft KKK hoods. The resulting image, which blends a symbol of patriotism with a symbol of hate, has the public divided as to whether it is a work of art or an abomination.

Titled American Mask, the three KKK hoods are on display in the window of a faculty art exhibit located in Miami’s Wynwood Art District. The professor who created the piece, Billie G. Lynn, told CNN that it’s “deliberately provocative.”

“I’ve always felt that art could and should act as a mirror to the culture, so that we can have these kinds of conversations within the context of talking about art,” Lynn further explained in an interview with the University of Miami.  

But not everyone views it as a thought-provoking piece. Patrick Young, who works near the gallery, called the display “disgusting” and “disrespectful.”

“This is disgusting. This is disrespectful,” Young told CNN affiliate WSVN. “I can’t see it being a positive message any way that you put it. This is disgusting to me.”

Willie Sanders, another nearby employee, had a similar reaction. As an African American, he found the display racist.

“I don’t think that’s any art,” Sanders said in an interview with WFOR, another CNN affiliate. “I think that KKK symbol with the United States flag—I don’t believe that’s a piece of art. I believe that’s a sign of racism.”

But despite the backlash, the University of Miami has defended the display as being a form of free speech.

“The University of Miami supports artistic expression and freedom of speech,” the University of Miami said in a released statement. “The art exhibit by University of Miami associate professor Billie G. Lynn, American Mask, was not reviewed or approved in advance by University of Miami officials, nor would it be subject to such review: It is an art exhibit by a member of our faculty, and her art is of her making.”