A theater has taken down an abstract painting that incorporated parts of a cut-up American flag after veterans groups complained that it desecrated the national symbol.

The head of the Bushnell theater, located next to the state Capitol, said the removal of the painting on Wednesday was not an act of censorship. He said the work was taken down because the artist, I.S. Levitz, had initially claimed the flag was not real, then admitted it was."This was about misrepresentation by an artist," said Douglas Evans, the Bushnell's executive director.

The top third of the 36-by-48-inch canvas shows part of an American flag. Extra stripes of red and white are above the stars and the flag is splotched with blue and green paints.

The painting, up since April 8, was part of a two-artist display in a gallery within the theater. Bushnell's board voted to have all nine of Levitz's paintings removed. They were scheduled to be up until May 24.

Veterans Affairs Commissioner Eugene Migliaro, a World War II veteran, said he saw the painting last week.

"What I saw almost broke my heart, and I'm not being a ham - I have tears in my eyes," he said. "I put my hand on it, and at that moment I almost ripped it off the wall."