Artist who created ‘obscene’ $10m MLK embrace statue in Boston reacts to ‘trolls’

‘When you put art in the world, you can’t control what people see,’ Hank Willis Thomas says

Gustaf Kilander,Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 17 January 2023 19:16 GMT
Artist who created $10m MLK embrace statue in Boston reacts to ‘trolls’

The artist who created the $10m MLK statue in Boston called “The Embrace” has reacted to those slamming his work.

The 22-foot statue unveiled in Boston last week is supposed to depict a photograph of Dr King and Coretta Scott King embracing after Martin Luther King Jr learned he had won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

Coretta King’s cousin Seneca Scott said in a piece for Compact Mag that the statue “looks more like a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple”.

“Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members — one of the all-time greatest American families,” Mr Scott wrote.

Artist Hank Willis Thomas appeared on CNN as the sculpture was slammed across social media platforms.

CNN host Don Lemon called the critics “just obviously trolls” and suggested to Mr Thomas that he doesn’t “really care” about the criticism.

“I care, because, I mean, how could you not think about Dr King and Mrs King’s legacy and not care, you know? But also when you put art in the world, you can’t control what people see. You know, I think about the Rorschach test, the inkblot test,” Mr Thomas responded.

“You know, what you see says a lot about what you see about the world. The work is meant to be gone into, it’s a call to action. You go in and be in the heart of their embrace. So what people see online I can’t really control,” the artist added.

He said he wanted to “capture” and “embody the feeling of love in their relationship,” adding that the statue was inspired by a quote from a book by Ms King.

“To me, the beloved community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflicts exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness. The beloved community is a state of heart and mind, a spirit of hope and goodwill that transcends all boundaries and barriers, and embraces all creation,” Mr Thomas said, reading from the book.

Mr Thomas said he hopes that those that enter the area of the statue will feel the sense of the “beloved community”.

The artist said it was “unbelievable” that he was able to contribute to the legacy of the Kings, noting that Boston Common is one of the oldest public spaces in the US, going back to the 1600s.

Social media erupted with derision at the statue, with some labelling the artwork “obscene” and “pornographic looking” while noting its resemblance to a part of the male anatomy.

“How could anyone fail to see that this was a major dick move (pun intended) that brings very few, if any, tangible benefits to struggling black families?” Mr Scott added.

He blasted the statue as being a result of the “woke machine’s callousness and vanity”, and showed progressives were more interested in virtue signalling than helping Black Americans. “So now Boston has a big bronze penis statue that’s supposed to represent black love at its purest and most devotional. This is no accident. The woke algorithm is racist and classist.”

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