An art exhibit at Chicago’s Gallery Guichard has become the centre of attention – for all the wrong reasons. The exhibit features a life-size restaging of the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of victim Mike Brown. The unarmed black teen was killed after an altercation with white police officer Darren Wilson.
New Orleans-based artist Ti-Rock Moore has recreated the scene for a new show called Confronting Truths: Wake Up! along with other paraphernalia remarking on racism, such as caricatures of Christ on the crucifix with a bag over his head bearing the message “I can’t breathe”. Moore also renders a Statue of Liberty in blackface, dangles a noose from a neon sign, and puts black faces behind cell bars made of money rolls.
The entire exhibit is said to be a comment on white privilege in America and its negative effect on the black community. The owners of the gallery have been shocked by the reaction. They have since received hate mail and death threats; activists have labelled the artwork as being “atrocious”.
“I think it’s disturbing, disgusting … that picture is still in my head” – Michael Brown Sr
Moore alleges she received permission from Brown’s family to portray his lifeless body as art, stating in an interview, “I was concerned about the family’s reaction to the work at first, but I knew I needed to ask their permission out of respect for their son. Not only did they give me their blessing, but they felt it would preserve the memory of their son and keep the movement going.”
However, Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr, is none too happy with the result. “I really, really would like for them to take that away,” Brown Senior told a local television station. “I think it’s disturbing, disgusting…that picture is still in my head.”
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, has reacted in kind to the work, even attending the opening of the exhibit. In an interview with the Guardian, gallery owner Andre Guichard said, “I think what makes this exhibition really unique is that it’s really bold and blunt, and it’s right in your face. But when you really think about racism, racism can be bold and blunt and right in your face, too.”
The artwork is not for sale and a donation will be made to Brown’s mother’s charity.