Dismembering A Hero
Leave it to the Yankee psychopaths to dismember when attempting to remember MLK. The unveiling on January 12, 2023, of a public work to honor the civil rights icon and his wife created controversy instead of inspiration. Not since the creation of Picasso's Guernica has the dismembering of the human form gathered so much attention. The supreme irony missed by the clueless planners for the installation was the subliminally brutal message behind the work.
Since 2017. war has again been declared on the South, her culture, and her heroes. Many of us consider the Reverend, a Southern hero. In the three months following the death of George Floyd, a total of 110 memorials to Southern heroes have been removed. Many, like the famous Lee equestrian monument on Richmond's Monument Avenue, were both historically and aesthetically significant. So much so that thousands bought building lots and invested a great deal to "live in the shadow of the monument."
After Friday's dedication of the commemorative sculpture by New Jersey artist Hank Willis Thomas at the cost of 10 million, the New York Post headline read 'Woke' $10M MLK 'penis' statue insults black community: Coretta Scott King kin. The following day Fox News' headline read New Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King sculpture called 'hideous': 'Fire whoever designed that. So, surely the memorial entitled The Embrace failed to communicate the intended message. The Post further reported
and suddenly, due to the dismemberment and the size of the piece, the sculpture, rather than speaking to King's contributions to racial unity, we are engaged in the old racial stereotype of black men having large endowments.
Strange that the King monument in D.C. is partial as well, with no backside to the figure, as if to be deliberately unfinished. More attention was paid to the mountain and the stone than was paid to the man. In both examples, the King monuments scream attention to the novelty of their creator and not the intended hero. I was reminded of Kentucky writer Wendell Berry who penned
The pride to which Berry refers and the resulting loneliness is shared, it is so apparent that the sponsors: Mayor Michelle Wu, together with the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture, the Boston Art Commission (BAC), and Embrace Boston share equal responsibility for this cultural bomb of a memorial. On the city's website, they state the aim of the statue was to "honor the life and legacy of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King" and to "celebrate their history in Boston''. The city also stated that they wanted to "spark a public conversation on advancing racial, and social justice in Boston today. " Spark a conversation - they certainly did just that.
The artist selected to create the work had no memory of King and his movement, being born in Plainfield, New Jersey, eight years after King's assassination. No offense, but the artist growing up in Plainfield, a city devoid of artful works, grew up being influenced more by American pop culture, emphasizing the originality of works. By comparison, the monuments to heroes that now once graced Richmond's Monument Avenue stayed true to the goal of generating awe for generations who never cared to ask of the artists like Antonin Mercie or Edward Valentine, who brought the hero to life. As an artist myself, holding a degree in the visual arts and aesthetics, I am not saying that America does not possess an artist capable of creating an appropriate memorial to the couple. Even Europe and European training match the worldview of woke New Englanders.
The "racial and social justice" movement today is unrecognizable compared to the movement that the Reverend King led fifty years ago. Like the dismembered remembrance now standing in the Boston Commons, King's movement, deeply rooted in the Judaic-Christian experience manifested in Western Civilisation later adopted by the South, has been radicalized and rejected by the North. In their 1619 version, a faith-based movement is forever racist and lacking in any redemption. With Biden, the great divider, Americans are more divided to produce specific political outcomes for the Democrat Party.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most consequential and important Southerners of modern times. He deserved far better. But then again, the North is incapable of both grace and beauty. With so many empty parks and circles in the South now vacant after the removal of the artful Confederate monuments, I worry that replacement statuary such as Thomas's abomination will soon litter Southern urban centers.
According to Plato, in Book X, the metaphor of the three beds explaining why artists are of very little value because what they do, making a representation of an ideal form, makes them, therefore, three steps removed from the truth. Plainfield artist Hank Willis Thomas and his patrons are so far afield that, like the Emperor's New Clothes, a child could recognize its phallicy.
Ted Ehmann was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He is a lecturer of the social sciences and the humanities at the PGICA.org. in Punta Gorda, Florida. He has served as president of the Charlotte Harbor Anthropological Society in Charlotte County since 2018 and was founder of the Charlotte County Florida Historical Society in 2019.