An Open Letter to the Terrible Trayvon Martin Tribute Artist

04.18.12 Marina Galperina

It’s called A Tale of Two Hoodies and it was sent to ANIMAL by artist Michael D’Antuono, along with this, “Subject: To My Biggest (non) Fan.”

“I wanted you to know that I have read all of your site’s (unflattering) writings about my work. I’m not sure it would be appropriate to thank you, but it’s nice to know you’re paying attention. I am curious though why you and your team have such an adverse reaction to my art. I assume this latest piece will also annoy you, but I am sending you the release anyway.”

Why do we have an adverse reaction to your art? Ok, Michael, we’ll bite. It’s because kitschy propaganda irritates us regardless of what side it appears to lean politically — whether it’s a conservative artist’s Evil Socialist Obama burning the Constitution or your Obama triumphantly brandishing Osama’s severed, bullet-ridden head. Now, about this terrible, terrible painting…

“Inspired by the Trayvon Martin tragedy, artist/activist Michael D’Antuono’s latest painting, “A Tale Of Two Hoodies” calls into question racism’s effects on interpretation of policy. The provocative piece depicts a KKK hooded police officer drawing his weapon on a small black child in a hoodie who is merely offering the policeman some candy. This all takes place against the backdrop of a torn American flag revealing the confederate one behind it.”

With all due respect to you as an artist, I’m but a blogger and this is nothing but criticism that you’ve specifically requested. That said, you’re right. Your newest painting annoys us.

What you have proudly venerated in your press release as your newest “controversial” and “provocative painting” is an opportunistic editorial cartoon. Here are some contentious factual errors that you’ve taken artistic liberty with: Zimmerman was not a cop. Hispanics are not allowed into the KKK. Finally, if you are using the “small black child” as a metaphor for the victims of racial violence, it is offensively diminutive.

The candy, the hoodie, the death of Trayvon Martin — you’re treating these visual signifiers as keywords, as hype, as… memes. You want to auction this off with “the proceeds going to benefit the Trayvon Martin Justice Fund”? I don’t think Trayvon’s parents would appreciate it.

The flag metaphor? Sure, it’s got a point. There is a dangerous, despicable undercurrent of regressive racial prejudice and judicial imbalance in our corrupt police-plagued country. With your transparently incendiary, inappropriately sentimental painting, you’re not helping.

If we are misinterpreting your work, let us know.