After the National Latino Peace Officers Association branded the image "hate art" and the Denver Police Protective Association formally demanded that it be taken down, the Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy student artist agreed to its removal. She and her mother were scheduled to meet yesterday morning with Denver mayor Michael Hancock, acting Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova and Denver Police Chief Robert White, but that get-together was postponed due to the inclement weather, and the City of Denver has not announced a rescheduled time and date.
In the meantime, we received a note from artist Michael D’Antuono, whose 2014 painting "A Tale of Two Hoodies," seen above, is one of two works cited as inspiring the student's offering; the other is Francisco Goya's "Third of May 1808." In it, he's extremely critical of the "hate art" label and involved parties who he sees as having bullied the student into agreeing to remove the painting rather than complimenting her for taking on important issues of the day.
"The goal of my art and (I assume) the student's, was to shed light and spark debate over the problem of racism in the criminal justice system," D’Antuono writes. "I applaud the Denver Police Chief's willingness to have a conversation with the student and fairly address her concerns. Unfortunately, the president of the National Latino Peace officers Association labeling it as 'hate art' and demanding her painting be taken down is a more typical reaction. It just takes one or two close minded people to restrict people’s First Amendment right. "
As D’Antuono points out,"This is not the first time my painting has been the object of censorship" — and as an example, he cites a December 2013 incident covered by Raw Story.
Back then, D’Antuono had established an eBay auction for "A Tale of Two Hoodies," with 50 percent of the proceeds earmarked for the Trayvon Martin Foundation. As you'll recall, Martin was killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a 2012 incident that stirred outrage nationwide — and Skittles, which the child is trying to hand the officer in D’Antuono painting, was Martin's favorite candy.
However, eBay removed the auction, which had generated a top bid of more than $25,000, on the same day it allowed Zimmerman to sell a painting of his own for in excess of $100,000.
In addition, D’Antuono highlights a story from a couple of months ago when "a high school teacher in a Dayton, Nevada high school was suspended for using my painting as part of her social studies exam." We've included a news report about that below.
"We in America tend to over-react to the art and under-react to the actual issue," D’Antuono continues. "We can’t fix a problem until we are willing to acknowledge that it might exist. The piece appears in textbooks in Europe, where they can be more objective about the issue.
"I’m disappointed that the student was bullied into having the piece removed as it apparently was doing its job in bringing attention to the issue. She should have been praised for inspiring critical thought instead of being derided by those who just might have a guilty conscience."
Here's the report about the Nevada incident.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.