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A candid moment between two lovers, a man who would shake the world and the woman who would carry his name and legacy decades after he was gone, is captured in a black and white photo. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a force, and I don’t think I really need to delineate why.
The candid moment captured was the moment that the Kings found out that Martin was the recipient of the Nobel Prize. Martin held Coretta in an embrace so tight that it would be immortalized in bronze almost 60 years later. That statue would be appropriately titled “The Embrace” and is situated in the middle of racist ass Boston, the Boston whose residents only reasoning for not saying the hard R, simply because of their accent. Maybe “the embarrassment” could have been a bit more appropriate because, at the very least, the backlash that the city received after the unveiling of the new MLK statue this week was nothing short of cringe-worthy.
As someone who is an artist for a living, I am a bit reticent to critique someone else’s artistic vision in an art form with which I am not familiar, other than that ceramic cup that I made in fifth grade that collapsed before it even got to the kiln.
Art is hard, and the last thing you want to do is present something you worked so hard on, just to have the world ridicule it, but man, that statue is…..whew, interesting?!
The biggest problem with the statue is that, from certain angles, you have no idea what it actually is. The fact that it is a bust without heads makes it open for interpretations that turn King’s dream into a naughty one is probably not the sentiment the artist wanted to leave the world with, I’m assuming. I get the emphasis was on the two of them embracing, but exactly who are the two of them without their faces?
Are we at the place where we give enough artistic license to images that are so important to history?
I just feel like with Boston’s sordid history of racism, if this was their contribution to the world, they could have done a better job at the vibe check. The statue, from different angles, resembles a phallus, a sexual position, and even a dookie. I’ve seen memes of this statue already that are not by any means honorable to Dr. King. The most egregious of these is the picture of the recently disgraced Maegen Hall, whose 15 minutes of infamy came via a sex scandal involving her and multiple male coworkers. The meme was a picture of her holding the statue in her hands that looked like a BBC—and I don’t mean British television.
The artist of this work of art is Hank Willis Thomas, who is a world-renowned sculptor and winner of the Guggenheim foundation award. His work will likely still be celebrated, even though he is no stranger to controversy, as he was, in my opinion, rightfully accused of plagiarism by multiple artists.
So on the artistic side, I don’t feel super bad about saying his work literally looks like poo, but on the other hand, Boston, again, racist-ass Boston, is trying, and I mean that’s something right. As art goes, this piece is memorable, to say the least.
It will definitely go down in history as one of the more talked about works dedicated to MLK.
Artists are notoriously difficult about their craft, as they should be, but someone could’ve said something. Someone could have pulled Thomas to the side and whispered in his ear, “say bruh, naw, “ maybe this did happen, and we just don’t know, but alas, we are left to wonder, depending on the angle.